By Josh Brown
“I distinctly remember getting the phone call. I was picking my kids up from school. It was one of those moments, at the age of 35, that you do not expect. I didn’t cry or panic, but it was kind of a shock to hear I had it.”
In January of last year, Kelly Elliott, now head volleyball coach of the Lady Bulldogs, was diagnosed with breast cancer. Elliott, who was then a sports management professor at Union, quickly began chemotherapy to rid her body of the disease.
The treatment was a success, but came with heavy costs to Elliott. She experienced hair loss along with a multitude of physical and emotional tolls that come with five months of such medication.
“Your first thought is (wanting to) be able to see your children grow up and that scare, and those are the kind of things that would break me down at times,” Elliott said. “But my (main) thought was, ‘What is the game plan from here?’ I couldn’t be depressed. I just had to stay active and press through it.”
Only two weeks after finishing the treatments, Elliott decided to take the head coaching position for the Lady Bulldogs volleyball team, which was offered to her after former Head Coach Steven Gream resigned late in October last year.
Despite being short on free time, Elliott took the position with seven years of assistant collegiate volleyball coaching experience under her belt as well as deep relationships with many of the women through Bible studies she led. These reasons made Elliott’s decision to take the job an easier one to make, and she took the position with much confidence.
“It was a great shift for me,” Elliott said. “It jerked me out of treatment. I was so busy and focused with family and volleyball that it helped jump-start me back into a normal life.”
This 2010 season is Elliott’s first full season in the head coaching position for the Lady Bulldogs, and the team has helped her transition smoothly.
“It’s been a great season so far,” Elliott said. “It is basically the same team back with a couple of new additions, and we have great team chemistry.”
Every season the Lady Bulldogs participate in a game called “Dig Pink,” in which the women sport pink uniforms to support the cause of breast cancer awareness. Now, coaching the Lady Bulldogs after going through a bout with breast cancer, the Dig Pink game holds a deeper place in Elliott’s heart.
“It’s a neat experience because I love volleyball, and to see it connected with something that has touched me personally is big,” Elliott said. “Just raising awareness is important. I’m happy to tell people about my experience and hope that may help any way that it can.”
Going through that experience is something that means a great deal to Elliott. She said her heart goes out to those who are going through, or have already been through, a bout with breast cancer, and she offered a word of advice to people in that situation.
“If you get depressed or discouraged, you are going to have more of a difficult time with it,” Elliott said. “I honestly believe, apart from my faith — which was the biggest thing that helped me get through — that family, friends and that kind of support are huge. It is just the way you approach it.”
The Lady Bulldogs will play Cumberland (Tenn.) University in the Dig Pink game Oct. 12 at 7 p.m. Students are encouraged to attend and cheer on the Lady Bulldogs, as well as support the cause of breast cancer awareness.
The next home game for the Lady Bulldogs is Thursday at 7 p.m. against Trevecca Nazarene University.
The team is sporting a 13–4 record and a 6–0 mark in TranSouth Conference play coming off of a road game conference win against Bethel University.