Life lessons don’t get much better than getting paid and having fun while discovering something that isn’t quite what you don’t want to do.
Janelle Ruen found out life on the staff of a major college volleyball program isn’t a day at the beach.
The former Eastern Washington and Post Falls star spent last fall as director of operations for the volleyball team at Auburn, under first-year coach Wade Benson, Ruen’s coach at EWU.
“Wade was kind enough to let me see what it was all about, get my feet wet,” Ruen said. “I was a behind-the-scenes person. I got to sit back and watch (the coaching staff) and see how they worked. The plan was always to re-evaluate after the season.”
Ruen took stock and returned to California and the life of a professional beach volleyball player.
“I’m going to take a different route,” said Ruen, 28, who is back on the beach for her fourth season. “I’m going to go back to school for physical therapy. I’ll always coach club, or maybe high school. I coach a club team now.”
That doesn’t mean the Auburn experience was disappointing.
“I loved my time at Auburn,” Ruen said. “Since it was a small-town atmosphere it was like being in Idaho. I loved it.”
She was awed by the size of the athletic department, the football program in particular, and traveling in the Southeastern Conference.
Combine that with her own athletic success and it still wasn’t enough to get her to commit to the life of a college coach.
Ruen was a volleyball and basketball star at Post Falls and at EWU concentrated on volleyball, where she was three-time all-league and Big Sky Conference MVP. Then she turned out for basketball and was honorable mention all-league.
She gave coaching serious consideration.
“It’s actually a great job,” she said. “You travel but you get some of the summer off. But I think I’m more suited for physical therapy.”
There was also the tug of her fiance, Billy Allen, back at Hermosa Beach, next to Manhattan Beach, which she called the unofficial volleyball capital of the U.S.
In the first part of the AVP schedule Ruen hasn’t had a top-12 finish but she is pleased with the progress her team has made.
“We’ve had a couple good tournaments where we felt we played well but we haven’t finished well,” she said. “I’ve had fun. I enjoy the travel. We’re going to stay with it.”
She has a pretty good excuse for a slow start.
“I didn’t know if I was going to play,” she said. “At Auburn I was training to do triathlons. Once I got back to California I got the bug to play again; all that training for nothing. It’s actually counter productive for volleyball. Volleyball is quick twitch, short bursts. I had to retrain all my muscles.
Ruen is amazed at the places she has visited around the world because of volleyball and is, at the moment, enjoying the coast-to-coast travel of the AVP schedule.
For that, she credits Allen, who was a setter at Cal-State Northridge and is ranked 15th.
“It makes it easier to travel and have support,” Ruen said.
They plan to marry in California in November.
“It will be a cool vacation for my family,” she said.
Her only current regret is missing her upcoming 10-year class reunion, although she dropped in at Post Falls last month to put on a three-day clinic.
“I think I’ll actually be in Chicago,” she said. “I’m so old, it’s crazy. … There won’t be excuse for missing my 20 year, that’s for sure.”