Kaufman gets his chance
A career assistant coach, Jim Kaufman is finally moving into the first seat on the volleyball bench.
“I’ve wanted to be a head coach for a long time,” Kaufman said of his recent hire at Michigan City. “I’m definitely excited to finally get the reins. I’ve spent a long time being an assistant coach and I enjoyed every bit of it, but I’m looking forward to taking on the responsibility.”
Kaufman succeeds TR Harlan, who was recently named to the same position at Wheeler after a three-year run of success at City that included two sectional titles.
“I’m really happy for Jim,” said Harlan, who coaches club volleyball with Kaufman at Epic. “He’s the right guy to leave with the program we’ve built the last three years. He’s been a huge part of our success.”
A 1989 graduate of La Porte, Kaufman first began playing volleyball in high school there when Jan Tuerff started the club program. He was part of a team of Slicers who won an age group state championship in the White River Park State Games.
His coaching career began at his prep alma mater when he was hired at La Porte as a freshman coach and subsequently served as JV coach under Marybeth Lebo. His daughter Alexa also played for LP.
“I couldn’t have been more thankful at the time to coach with her,” Kaufman said of Lebo.
From La Porte, Kaufman joined forces with former Slicer Katie Lenard at Valpo and also was on staff at Purdue North Central prior to the consolidation with Purdue Calumet before coming to Michigan City with Harlan. He also coached club ball at the Dunes.
“Marybeth was very driven. She expected a lot out of her girls,” Kaufman said. “Katie is more laid back, then I go to TR, who is kind of a mix of the two. He’s laid back, too, but can be intense at the same time. His philosophy was to demand accountability with the girls, to tell it like it is. I truly learned a lot from all three.”
Kaufman is grateful for the good word Harlan put in on his behalf and believes continuity also had something to do with his selection.
″(M.C. Athletic Director) Craig (Shaman) liked my approach with the girls,” Kaufman said. “He knew I was qualified, he knew how long I had coached. The girls like me. I’m a people person. I have a really good relationship with the kids. I’ve been able to build a lot of relationships in coaching throughout the years.”
Building on the program’s recent success is a priority, though Kaufman knows the challenge will be significant with the graduation of several multi-year impact players.
“The goal obviously is to repeat some of the success, to win a sectional again,” he said. “It’s every coach’s dream to move on as far as you can. Hannah (Noveroske), Emily (Kinney) and Kasey (Halfacre) had a lot of experience. We’re not going to have the height we had before, so our focus is going to be on being defensive. That’s where it starts.”