BROOKINGS – The Brookings Activities Department recently announced the hiring of two new coaches to lead Bobcat student-athletes into the future of their respective programs.
Samantha Bush will take over the girls’ volleyball program while David Rohrbach transitions from Class B to AA and the head boys’ basketball coach.
Activities Director Mike Jewett made both hirings official last week and that the process for hiring both coaches went well, but not without some challenges.
“There was a lot of interest in the boys’ basketball position, but much like the rest of the state, there isn’t as much interest in coaching volleyball, for whatever reason,” Jewett said. “We still have a couple sub-varsity positions open in the volleyball program.”
“But, we’re not the only school in that situation. Sioux Falls Lincoln and Sioux Falls Christian, for example, both had openings in volleyball that they have struggled to fill, as well.”
With the increased emphasis on teams attending summer camps and clinics, having coaches in place ahead of those summer events was paramount for Jewett.
“Knowing the importance of this summer and workouts and the opportunity with camps and the like, trying to fill these openings and give the new coaches the best chance to establish expectations and philosophies and ideas, and for the student-athletes to gel with the new coach, that pushed the process along,” Jewett said. “We had really good candidates which made us feel good about the pace in which the hirings were made.”
What made coach Bush and coach Rohrbach stand out to Jewett and the hiring committee? It started with their energy and passion for the game.
“Their passion for kids and passion for coaching really made them stand out,” Jewett said. Their energy level, not just when you interact with them, but when talking with their references or calling people that I know, inevitably they allude to their energy both on and off the court. That’s extremely important when you’re trying to build a program. You’ve got to have the energy and persistence to do it.”
Jewett also said that both the short and long-term vision for their respective programs made both coaches stand out.
“Their ability to share with either me or the committee, their vision for the program, how they would go about establishing their own programs, that really resonated with what we were looking for when searching for coaches,” Jewett said.
The Bobcat volleyball program finished the 2021 season with a record of 8-20 while the boys’ basketball program, after starting 1-1, lost their final 17 games and finished 1-18. While the wish to immediately have a program rebound after struggling is high atop a list of wants, displaying patience must be a top priority.
“There’s always a necessity to be patient in a situation like this,” Jewett said, “but your patience can grow if you’re seeing progress being made and you know the student-athletes are having a quality experience. If the student-athletes are enjoying themselves, they’re being pushed, they’re being challenged, and we’re trending in the right direction, that’s what we want to see.”
After playing volleyball at Dakota State University, coach Bush takes the reigns of her first head coaching job at the top level of volleyball in South Dakota.
Around sports all her life and coming from a fanatical sports family, Bush says that she has been involved with athletics nearly all her life, both on and off the court.
“Growing up in a smaller community like Kranzburg I’ve always been active in the community,” Bush said. “I’ve always felt the urge to be out in the community and helping.”
“Obviously, athletics were always a big part of my life growing up and through high school and into college at Dakota State.”
The first-year head coach, while inexperienced on the coaching side of things, brings about an energy level and passion for the game that she hopes will help push the Bobcat volleyball program in an upward trending direction.
“I’m inheriting a team that is hungry and ready to give their all,” Bush said. “It’s exciting and they’re very serious and into things which is great.”
“The girls were hungry and ready to dive right in when we first met which was a great environment to come into, and my assistants have been very open with me, and the program and the district have been extremely welcoming.”
Bush inherits a program that had 37 players from freshman through senior last year, four of which graduated this spring. There’s a good nucleus in place with several returning players, many of whom saw significant playing time at the varsity level.
Bush has had many chances to meet with and learn the ins and outs of her new program, and with camps coming up will soon have the chance to see her new squad in game action.
“The girls have been lifting three times a week so I’ve been trying to go to that with them so as to get more involved with them as soon as I can,” Bush said. “We’ve also had open gyms a couple days a week, and over the next couple weeks we’ll start going to some team camps.”
As for what the future holds for the Bobcat volleyball program?
“My long-term vision is that I always want to see our program going up,” Bush said. “There will always be room for improvement whether it’s myself, the girls, our coaching staff, and we’ll always look at what we could have done better in a given situation and look to improve every chance we get.”
“Night in and night out this team will put up a good fight and challenge,” Bush added.
While the season says summer, fall will be here soon and with it comes the start of a new era of Bobcat volleyball.
“The first game is August 23 in Aberdeen. Our girls are ready to rock and roll and I’m ready to see them in action,” Bush said.
Bush will be teaching second grade at Medary Elementary starting this fall.
Bobcat Boys' Basketball
Coming off qualifying for the last three Class B boys’ basketball state tournaments, finishing runner-up in 2021 and seventh this past year (the 2020 state tournament was cancelled by Covid), Rohrbach left a talented Aberdeen Christian program behind and just last week was hired to be the next head coach of the Bobcat boys.
Leaving Aberdeen behind was far from an easy decision.
“It was a really tough decision knowing all we had coming back,” Rohrbach said. “When you will bring back your entire starting lineup, with them all being seniors too and all their experience and success, it was tough to leave the guys. But it felt like the right time, and with [Aberdeen Christian Superintendent] Eric Kline leaving the district to pursue a leadership business opportunity in the Sioux Falls area it felt like the right decision.”
What was it about Brookings that made Rohrbach want to apply to be the next Bobcat boys’ basketball coach?
“The chance to coach at the AA level at a big school intrigued me,” Rohrbach said. “It’s been one of my goals in coaching. And I really liked the community of Brookings having been here for state golf about a year ago.”
“When Brookings opened up, I was really excited to apply here, and when I interviewed for the position I just felt comfortable and really liked the direction that Mr. Jewett wanted to take the program,” Rohrbach added.
Rohrbach’s program has 33 returning players after eight graduated this spring, many who saw plenty of time at the varsity level. It’s an opportunity to start new with an eager group of players.
“I’m really excited about the prospects of building a program and being able to implement what you want and how you want to build that program and develop a new culture,” Rohrbach said.
What should Bobcat fans expect to see when Brookings takes the floor in December?
“We’re going to be an up-tempo team that is defensive minded,” Rohrbach said. “If you’re going to be competitive and win it must start on the defensive end, and we’re going to hang our hat on the defensive end, get after it on defense and make sure that’s our calling card.”
“We want defense to be there both when our shots are and aren’t falling and that we’ll always have that defense to fall back on. If you’re going to win any big game, you have got to play good defense.”
When Brookings has possession, you can expect to see a team that wants to run and take full advantage of any mismatches they can get.
“We’re going to get out and run and make the offensive end easier for the guys,” Rohrbach said. “You’re not always going to score in transition, AA defenses are really good and have athletes all over the floor, but a transition offense is something you’ll see from our team.”
Both the Bobcat offense and defense are in need of a boost. Brookings had the largest point differential of all 19 AA teams this past season, scoring only 42.4 points per game while allowing 60.5 points a contest, a deficit of 18.1 points each time out.
Improvement starts slowly and doesn’t happen overnight, according to Rohrbach.
“You’ve got to keep improving; there’s always room for improvement and getting better every day,” the head coach said.
“You can have rapid growth, but you’ve got to do it the right way and you can’t skip steps, Rohrbach said. “Getting a little better each day, before you know it you’ve got momentum building and makes kids get excited to be in the gym. All that stuff compounds. As the guys get better on their own, they start buying in to playing together on both ends of the floor.”
Along with growth, Rohrbach says the word “together” is very important in his role as head coach.
“I love that word together, I love team sports for that aspect,” Rohrbach said. “You can achieve so much more when you play together. There’s a competitive advantage to playing the game that way.”
“The team aspect, I love that about basketball,” Rohrbach added. “You can work toward a common goal and get to see guys celebrate each other’s successes, work hard, and be rewarded for it. You get to see guys be genuinely excited, both for themselves and their teammates.”
Having only been on the job (and in Brookings) for a few days it’s been a whirlwind for Rohrbach as he works to get settled into the Brookings community. However, having met with the team as they are in the middle of summer team camps, the new floor general made it clear that growth starts with the players.
“When I met with the guys, I told them there’s a few things they can control, those being your attitude, your effort, and how good of a teammate you are,” Rohrbach said. “Those are the three things you have to have to start and build a program and make it fun for everyone to be there.”
“The other main value you must have is to strive for excellence every day. If you try to be perfect, you’ll be afraid to make mistakes and can’t get better, but if you pursue excellence, now we’re getting better, and the trajectory is going up.”
With all that being said, what would qualify as a successful first season for the new head coach and his team?
“The biggest thing I want to see is that we’re super competitive and playing together,” Rohrbach said. “If you can tell we’re a unit and the program is trending upward, then the wins will come in time.”
“I want to win as bad as anyone, but we for sure want to be winning when we should be winning. Wins naturally come when you don’t focus on winning but focus on what you can control and on the doing the little things well.”
Coach Rohrbach will be teaching at Mickelson Middle School as a success interventionist. Brookings’ first game under his leadership will be December 9 as the Bobcats host Watertown.