Samantha (Rogers) Birkicht is currently in her fourth year as head volleyball coach for the University of Wisconsin-Platteville. Birkicht is no stranger to UW-Platteville. An Illinois native, she was one of the first cohorts to take advantage of the university’s Tri-State Initiative program. Birkicht graduated with a degree in physical education in 2009 and was an assistant coach from 2011-15 under Deb Schulman. When the 2020 season was cancelled due to COVID-19, the Pioneers were coming off a 16-14 season that saw a seven-match win streak and a thrilling five-set victory over nationally ranked UW-Stevens Point. Birkicht lives in Madison with her husband and two young children.
When recruiting a potential student-athlete for the volleyball program, besides talent, what are you looking for in a future Pioneer?
Besides skill development, the top three things we look for are their ability to be a supportive teammate, if they have a growth mindset and are able to take on challenges and feedback in a positive manner, and what standards they hold themselves to academically.
Campus has changed over the last 20 years, with the new addition on the Pioneer Activity Center and new weight room. How have you as a coach and members of the volleyball team benefited from change?
Over the past 10 years, I have seen a huge shift in the strength training of our program. We have more space to be creative with our training and focus more on movements and lifts that will transfer over to the volleyball court. Our players are so proud of the new space, and we have seen a shift in mindset when they enter the PAC. They work harder and are able to stay motivated throughout the off season. It is a space now that feels empowering and exciting to excel as a student-athlete.
When a Pioneer volleyball player finishes their four years in the program and graduates, what do you want them to take away from the experience?
I want them to have the tools to empower themselves and empower others. I want them to know how to use their voice to be heard and their strengths to lead. I want them to be proud of the challenges they have overcome so when they look back they can be confident to look forward and know with a growth mindset they can overcome anything.
What are some hobbies you enjoy to do outside of athletics?
I love to hike and stand-up board. If I get a day off or a vacation I am usually searching for areas where I could do both of those activities.
With two young children at home, how do you balance coaching and your home life?
I love using the word blend instead of balance. One way I blend them together is by involving my family in growing the program and the volleyball players. My husband takes care of all our social media and is our biggest fan. He is always challenging me to find new ways to use social media as an avenue to connect with recruits, players, and alumni. My boys love our players, and our players love my boys. I will bring my boys to the gym sometimes and the players know to give them a hug, laugh at their dance moves, and then get focused to train. Sitting around a table for a meal is very important to our family. Almost every day I makes sure to either sit down for breakfast with them or dinner. The last way I do this is by giving Sunday off for everyone no matter what! That means no texts, calls, training, etc. This way I am intentional every week with giving my family and my faith time away from work.