If anybody knows what is required to make it to the top in Australian volleyball, and can inspire the next generation coming through, it is Volleyroos captain, Kell Lean.
Kell, who has been coaching the Victorian under 17 girls development squad at the Australian Junior Volleyball Championships (AJVC) in Canberra, by her own admission, was a late bloomer in the sport.
In Year 11 at school she made the Victorian under 19 development team for the AJVC with the expectation that she would progress to the White team the following year. By this time Kell had joined the Greater Melbourne Volleyball Academy under the coaching of former Australian players, Luke Campbell and Bec Walter.
But in Year 12 she was again selected as a development player. If anything, this fuelled her desire to progress in the sport.
The next step was crucial in her development as she headed across to the United States on a college scholarship for two years. Kell recalls, “That was a turning point for me. The coach was instrumental in turning volleyball from a hobby to a full time pursuit.”
After two years in junior college in Illinois, Kell transferred to Tennessee to extend her stay in America by another two years to play in the NCAA. It proved to be another turning point, as she was selected in the Volleyroos whilst in her third year in the U.S.
At 24 years of age, she is now captain of the Volleyroos, but much has happened since leaving the American College system. For one, she now heads the massive volleyball program at Wesley College in Melbourne.
Kell has also returned to coaching at the Greater Melbourne Volleyball Academy, combining this role with her playing career. Kell, it would appear, has little time for anything else.
But she found time this week to coach the under 17 girls development squad at the AJVC. “Sometimes I enjoy it more than playing,” she says, “As a 24 year old I am still learning. I’m enjoying making these players the best possible athletes while having a positive influence on their lives.”
Kell’s life experiences make her the perfect fit to be coach of a team of young girls hoping to progress in the sport.
So while she coaches, she has an eye to the immediate future as a player.
After missing the tour of Asia, including the Asian Championships, after breaking her hand in training earlier this year, she is focused on returning to playing this month.
“I hope to be back playing in the Australian Volleyball League for Melbourne later this month and be ready for the qualifiers in January,” remarks Kell. The qualifier is the Olympic Qualification Tournament in January in Thailand, with the top side making it through to Tokyo 2020.
And there’s no shortage of confidence within the playing group leading up to ths quest, “We are there to win,“ says Kell.
So with a crowded life filled mostly with volleyball, has she had a chance to reflect on the journey so far especially as a coach at the Junior Championships in Canberra? Kell says, “It brings back some great memories. The last time I played in the AJVC was at this arena.”
It simply adds to the depth of experience Kell has imparted to this group of young volleyball players in her charge for the past week.