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Editor's note: This is the third in a three-part series on student-athlete family ties.
By Gary Brown
Title IX has come of age enough to produce a mother-daughter coaching tandem.
When Presidents’ Athletic Conference volleyball rivals Saint Vincent and Chatham serve against each other on September 16, newly hired Chatham coach Kristin Consuegra will be staring across the net at her mother, longtime Saint Vincent coach Sue Hozak.
To stir things up even more, Consuegra is a Saint Vincent grad, having played for her mom for four years – the last with her sister Natalie, who now becomes Consuegra’s opponent.
Is Consuegra nervous? Hardly.
“It will be fun to be on the same court with my mom and my sister again – only on the other side of the net this time,” said the 25-year-old who spent the last two years as an assistant at Indiana (Pennsylvania).
Hozak, who has mentored the Saint Vincent squad since its inception in 1985, also invoked “fun” as the emotive descriptor for the match against her daughter.
“Certainly it will be fun,” she said. “It might be an even bigger deal for Natalie, since she finally gets to play against her sister,” she said.
While there have been plenty of father-son competitions over the years, not as many women have matched Xs and Os with their offspring. A 1983 graduate of Waynesburg University in Pennsylvania, Hozak is part of a generation that enjoyed fully the fruits of their forbears’ labor.
Coming from a family where she was treated as “one of the boys” when it came to sports, Hozak played volleyball, basketball, softball and anything else she could find while growing up in the 1960s and ’70s. She went on to earn three state championships at a high school with an already successful girls’ volleyball program before graduating in 1979.
Passing that experience on to her daughters came naturally.
“I realize now that my generation was probably the first that was afforded meaningful opportunities to compete in organized athletics from an early age,” Hozak said. “Previous generations blazed the trail, but ours was perhaps the first to enjoy the benefits as young female athletes.”
Hozak’s generation also may have been among the first for which it was OK to balance children with a career. Her husband Mark, who played baseball and basketball at Waynesburg and has been an assistant women’s basketball coach at St. Vincent for 15 years (in addition to having a day job), was all too happy to manage the kids while Sue jump-started the Saint Vincent squad into a winner. That acceptance and collaboration certainly rubbed off on Kristin as she weighed her own career options.
“My mom is entering her 26th season coaching at Saint Vincent and I am currently 25, so she has been coaching since I was born,” said Consuegra, who married Danny Consuegra, a two-time All-American baseball student-athlete at Saint Vincent, in 2008. “I grew up with the game, and I also grew up with two coaches, which means I knew I could have that lifestyle and still have a family.”
(The Consuegras now have a son, Tyson, who was born in November 2009. Kristin said Tyson likes to play with a toy volleyball, though Danny has begun putting baseballs in his son’s hands as well.)
Consuegra also was exposed to other sports as a kid, but she stuck with volleyball for its quick pace and competitiveness. Like her mother, she excelled as a setter – a position akin to being a coach on the floor.
“I like being in charge,” Consuegra said, which is interesting, because when Hozak was asked why she liked being a setter, she said, “Because I like being in charge.”
The Saint Vincent volleyball team in action at the 2009 SVC Challenge
Lest people think that would create conflicts for the two on the court, it’s quite the contrary. Hozak said she and her daughter think similarly during practices and games.
“We have the same thought process in volleyball,” she said. “Kristin says and does things that I want her to say or do before I tell her to say or do them. As mother and daughter, we argued the least on the volleyball court.”
Being on the same wavelength in volleyball isn’t the only characteristic the two share. As a new head coach, Consuegra is shaping her own philosophies after her mother, though having been an assistant coach for another school for the last two years has allowed her to make her own path, too.
The main difference, Consuegra said, may manifest itself in how she tolerates mistakes early on.
“I may be a little more patient when it comes to players executing on the court – not accepting of mistakes necessarily, but I understand where I am right now in my career as a young coach in my first year, and I anticipate a lot of mistakes from the players,” she said. “My mom on the other hand has been in the sport for a while and doesn’t expect or tolerate those mistakes like I might.”
To confirm how the two think alike, when Hozak was asked about the differences between them as coaches, she said, “Kristin’s probably going to be more patient and more accepting of issues that may arise than I am.”
Like peas in a pod.
As for how daughter/sister Natalie feels about all of this, she said, “I am not sure what to expect, but I think it will be fun.”
Wait a minute – didn’t her mother and sister say “fun” earlier?
Natalie, currently completing an undergraduate degree in communications, also appears to have the coaching gene. She said she wants to continue her academic career and be a graduate assistant volleyball coach.
“I am not sure if I want to go down the same long-term career path my sister and mother went with coaching, but I would really like to explore my options,” she said.
In addition to the September 16 match, the duo gets another shot at each other in a tri-match at Waynesburg on October 22. The Waynesburg squad is coached by Stephanie Benkowski, who also played for Hozak at Saint Vincent.
“My mom has always referred to Stephanie as her third daughter,” Consuegra said, “so that will be quite the family reunion.”
But instead of hot dogs, potato salad and brownies, it will be with digs, sets and spikes.