Volleyball returns to the varsity athletics of Oklahoma Christian University in the fall of 2019. To lead this revival, Oklahoma Christian hired Barry Wheeler as head coach.
Wheeler spent his previous time building two successful volleyball programs at small Christian universities: Crowley’s Ridge College in Arkansas and Rochester College in Michigan. He coached most recently at Crowley’s Ridge for three seasons and managed the program at Rochester for 12.
While at Rochester in the 1990s, Wheeler led the Lady Warriors to two national title victories in the United States Collegiate Athletic Association. He also coached the Lady Warriors basketball and softball teams. Last October, Wheeler was inducted into the Rochester College Sports Hall of Fame.
After leaving Rochester, Wheeler took a break from collegiate volleyball to coach high school volleyball. He coached in four different towns: Stockton, MO; Hollister, MO; Holden, AR and Houston, MO. During his stint with high school coaching, Wheeler had a career record of 497-414.
In 2016, Wheeler returned to college athletics to build a new volleyball program at Crowley’s Ridge. He led the program through its transition into NAIA, guiding the team to its first NAIA postseason appearance in 2018.
Wheeler, originally from Flint, MI, earned his associate degree from Rochester in 1983, his bachelor’s from Harding University in 1986 and two master’s degrees, one in sports medicine from the United States Sports Academy and his second in education from Southwest Baptist University.
Oklahoma Christian dropped its women’s volleyball team in 1983 after four straight losing campaigns. Wheeler will spend 2019 on skill, cognition, leadership training, recruiting and team bonding, including possible exhibition and scrimmages. The team will begin competition in the Lone Star Conference in 2020.
Q: What were your key takeaways from the other instances when you helped build volleyball programs?
A:“Never give up when recruits tell you ‘no.’ God has a way of providing the players we need for this program.”
Q: What is your coaching style?
A: “I like to have fun. I expect the players to play as hard as they can on every ball but have fun doing it. Don’t be shocked if you hear music—80s rock—coming from the gym.”
Q: What main difficulties do you anticipate facing this first year?
A: “Keeping the players excited about playing. This is the first time I have started a program from the ground up, so I’m not sure what that will look like during the fall, but I do have colleagues that have the expertise in that area, so I will be calling on them for insight and guidance.”
Q: What are you looking forward to in coaching at Oklahoma Christian?
A: “I love the Christian college atmosphere and being able to share my faith with young adults. I see it as a mission field—building relationships with young men and women that will last years beyond our time at OC.”
Q: What does it mean to you to be able to be influential in the bringing back the Oklahoma Christian volleyball program?
A: “What an honor to be chosen to restart this program. It has been a dream of mine for several years. About six years ago, I heard that Oklahoma Christian was considering restarting volleyball, so I made to trip to Edmond and spoke with the Athletic Director Curtis Janz. I have had an interest in Oklahoma Christian ever since. I really never thought the opportunity would come my way, but here we are, and I’m grateful and excited about this opportunity.”