All high school coaches work some other job to help pay the bills. Occasionally a coach is lucky enough to land a dual athletic director/coach role, while most also double as teachers or in some other role on a school rostrum.
Not Drayton/Valley-Edinburg first-year volleyball coach Brooke Apple. When she’s not drilling her team or coaching them in a key match, she’s probably at her church. And we do mean, her church, because Apple is a pastor for First Lutheran Coach in Hoople, N.D.
The point is that if Apple is ever overheard saying that she hopes to God her team can score a particular point, you can be pretty sure she means it.
Apple acknowledged to the Grand Forks Herald that the two roles present a very unique occupational duality.
“I’m working on how I can tell people to go out and love one another and spread God’s love throughout the world,” Apple told the Herald. “And then I go to practices and go to games and tell these girls to hit hard, not to hurt somebody but to take it to them and be aggressive all the time. It’s kind of a balance. But it’s fun and it lets me get out my competitive nature. And it lets me get involved in the community.”
It also allows Apple to re-connect with her own athletic heritage. A diminutive impact player in high school, Apple went to great lengths to become certified to coach at the high school level. And she and school administrators developed a robust built-in back-up plan for the occasions when Apple may have to lead a funeral or other event that keeps her from coaching a game (assistant coach Becky Johnson is trained, qualified and ready to take over for Apple at a moment’s notice when needed).
And while Apple’s own evolution as a coach has been fascinating for her to experience and observe from up close, the most interesting dynamic may be the relationships she has navigated among her players who also see her as their pastor at First Lutheran.
“At first, there maybe was a little distance with some of the kids, trying to find a balance of when I’m their coach and when I’m their pastor,” Apple said.
“But developing that relationship with the girls as a coach I think has helped me as a pastor. It gives me a chance to get into their lives in a different way, to see them through a different lens.”
It would be inaccurate to call Apple’s first season on the volleyball bench a total success — the Drayton/Valley-Edinburg co-op sports a 1-9 record — but away from the final scores, there’s no doubting the impact Apple’s new role has had on her student athletes and parishoners.
“I was excited,” junior hitter Emilee Riley, who also attends First Lutheran, told the Herald. “I’d gone with her on mission trips. I knew she had a competitive side. And we knew she was a good person.”