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Scots’ Shimmin sacrifices sidelines for 'senatorial' service

Barry McNamara
Volleyball coach Kari Shimmin congratulates a member of the Fighting Scots during their 3-1 win against Lawrence University on Oct. 7. The match occurred three days after Shimmin was absent from the sidelines for just the second time in her coaching career.

The Monmouth College volleyball team is used to having coach Kari Shimmin on the sidelines. At the midway point of her 14th year at the helm, she had coached all but one of the Scots’ last 448 matches.

Shimmin’s only absence was understandable, as she remained behind (kind of) to give birth to her daughter, Sara, rather than coach the Fighting Scots at the 2007 Midwest Conference tournament. Even then, she wrestled with the decision, actually starting off on the road trip to Wisconsin but turning back when it became clear that Sara was on her way.

Absence No. 2 occurred earlier this month, when Shimmin stayed on campus instead of accompanying the team to a non-conference road match at Lincoln Christian University. This time, her tough decision was for professional reasons, not personal.

A member of Monmouth College’s six-person Faculty Senate, Shimmin has played an important role in communicating with departments about a proposed change to Monmouth’s academic calendar, which is modeled after what is typically used at top liberal arts colleges.

However, at the college’s September faculty meeting, a “4-4” calendar proposal was voted down. That’s when Shimmin knew she’d have a conflict, as the next meeting was scheduled for Oct. 4, the same night as the LCU match.

“Right after the September meeting, I made a call to Lincoln Christian to see if we could change the date,” said Shimmin, who is the longest-tenured women’s coach in Fighting Scots history. “We couldn’t find one that would work for both teams.”

Between the two faculty meetings, Shimmin and the other Faculty Senate members were involved in numerous departmental meetings, doing the important behind-the-scenes work necessary to coordinate such a significant change to the academic calendar.

“I made my best effort to try to make every one of those meetings, and I was even late to practice a few times,” said Shimmin. “We always talk to the team about putting academics first, and by going to the October faculty meeting, that was what I was doing. They knew it was the right decision.”

Easing Shimmin’s mind on game night was the presence of her assistants, Laura Anton and John Goddard.

“We have very competent assistant coaches,” said Shimmin of Anton, a former team member, and Goddard, MC’s head softball coach. “I knew the team was in good hands.”

“Kari does a fantastic job teaching our students and student-athletes what it means to be a leader,” said David Timmerman, dean of the faculty. “It’s no surprise, since she is a fantastic leader herself. This was yet another indication of it.”

“Kari had two important appointments on the same night,” said athletic director Roger Haynes of Shimmin, who is also the department chair for physical education. “When you wear more than one hat, you sometimes have to make tough choices.”

The final result? Academically, the news was good, as the adjustments that were made to the proposal resulted in the 4-4 calendar being approved. On the court, the Scots lost a hard-fought 18-25, 27-25, 25-22. 25-20 decision to LCU, but Shimmin could take comfort in the fact that her team was still atop the Midwest Conference standings with a 4-0 record.

“I knew where I needed to be,” said Shimmin. “It was still very hard.”

October is proving to be a busy month for the 1997 Monmouth graduate. During Homecoming festivities the weekend of Oct. 21-23, Shimmin will be inducted into the college’s M Club Hall of Fame for her outstanding career as a Fighting Scot volleyball player and coach.