Note: The following appears in the June issue of Orange: The Experience. For full access to all of the publication's content, join IPTAY today by calling 864-656-2115.
When Michaela Franklin first visited the campus of Clemson University to interview for the women's volleyball head coaching position, she instantly felt a connection.
As someone who has worn several different hats in several different locations throughout her journey within the college volleyball ranks, Franklin has had the pleasure of working with a variety of outstanding athletic programs during her career. But prior to visiting Tigertown, she had never felt anything quite like the unique combination of the familial feel and commitment to winning that forms the bedrock of Clemson University and its athletics.
“With the facilities and, obviously, the success that its programs have had, it has an elite-level atmosphere,” said Franklin when speaking on what makes Clemson so special. “Yet it still has that family dynamic, which is something that is really unique about Clemson, because not every university has that.”
As it turns out, Franklin's good vibes rang true, as her visit to Clemson went swimmingly, and she was hired in March to take the helm of the program. A former standout right-side attacker for Kansas State, Franklin boasts a resumé laden with successes from both her playing and coaching days.
Hailing from Lincoln, Neb., Franklin was a three-sport star at Lincoln High School, competing in basketball, track & field and, of course, volleyball. Franklin's prep volleyball career was highly decorated, as it saw Michaela earn all-state honors as a senior and lead her squad to two district titles along the way.
Franklin competed at the college level from 2001 to 2004, playing at Northern Michigan as a freshman before suiting up at Kansas State for the remainder of her college career. While at Kansas State, Franklin was incredibly well-rounded on the volleyball court, playing mostly as a right-side attacker, but manning a variety of other positions, as well.
She was a pivotal cog on the 2003 Wildcat team that won the Big 12 Conference title and advanced to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament. Franklin's most prestigious individual honor came in the form of the Snell Award, awarded at Kansas State to athletes who display excellence in the realm of academics. Learning under two-time Big 12 Coach-of-the-Year Suzie Fritz while playing for the Wildcats, the ever-humble Franklin recollected herself as a coach-in-the-making while at Kansas State.
“I'm fully convinced that I was sent to Kansas State to become a great coach, not a great player,” stated Franklin with a grin. “I went through that roller-coaster ride of starting sometimes and not seeing the court other times. It helped me evolve as a person and competitor.
“I was able to see the game from different perspectives, and now I'm able to relate to my players because I've been in their shoes. I know what it's like to be on their side of things.”
Those different perspectives clearly paid dividends, as Franklin hit the ground running after graduating from Kansas State, rising up the coaching ladder by impacting every program that she became involved with.
After an introductory stint to the coaching profession with a club team in Lincoln, Franklin began her ultimate dream of coaching college volleyball by serving as an assistant under renowned Northern Illinois head coach Ray Gooden from 2006 to 2008. Quickly learning the ropes and establishing herself as quite the defensive specialist, Franklin next teamed up with Bond Shymansky at Marquette, where she served as defensive coordinator.
Together with Shymansky, who is a prominent figure in the college volleyball coaching circle, Franklin led the Golden Eagles to their first NCAA Tournament appearance and victory in 2011, which was a defining achievement in the buildup to Franklin's debut head coaching appointment at Wisconsin-Green Bay in 2013.
Thereafter, Franklin opted to rejoin Shymansky by becoming an assistant coach with his new program, Iowa. Serving as defensive coordinator and recruiting coordinator for the Hawkeyes from 2014 through this past season, Franklin utilized the learning opportunities presented by coaching alongside the great Shymansky to prepare her for the premier opportunity of becoming the head coach of the Tigers.
Despite being a proverbial greenhorn of the head coaching profession, Franklin is certainly wise beyond her years and ready to take the program to new heights. Although she comes from an athletic family, as she is the daughter of former Nebraska and Miami Dolphins running back Andra Franklin, and was quite the accomplished athlete in her heyday, Franklin does not limit her coaching approach strictly to sports.
Inspired by her mother, Becky, who has always displayed unwavering support for her in all of her ventures, Franklin views her volleyball coaching role as a gateway to positively impacting every aspect of her players' lives. Choosing to adopt the approach of serving as a life coach for her players just as much as she serves as a volleyball coach, Franklin has come to define her vision for how a volleyball program should operate as “championship behavior.”
Hailing championship behavior as “her philosophy for coaching and life,” Franklin has never strayed from her steadfast commitment to displaying championship behavior throughout her volleyball career. Centered upon a never-ending effort to be the best person, teammate, student and volleyball player that one can be, Franklin's formula for championship behavior is the perfect recipe for success in the world of college athletics, and it will rightfully serve as the groundwork for the program for as long as Franklin is in charge.
“Growth of the individuals in our program is important to me. That plays along with that championship behavior and being the best person and the best teammate.”
A student not only of the game of volleyball but of all sports, Franklin cites legendary college basketball coach John Wooden as being one of her top coaching idols. Appropriately enough, Wooden once said, “Success comes from knowing that you did your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming.” Needless to say, that maxim goes hand in hand with Franklin's championship behavior ideology.
“I believe that in order to win championships in volleyball or be a winner in life, you have to behave like a champion,” said Franklin. “It doesn't just all of a sudden turn on at one moment. It doesn't work like that. You have to be consistent.”
While the 2017 season figures to be one of growth and assimilation as Franklin lays the foundation for the team's new beginning, the season boasts plenty of promise as well. Though they have yet to even coach in a game together, Franklin and the rest of Clemson volleyball's first-year coaching staff are a tight-knit group and perfectly jell with one another.
“First and foremost, they're quality people,” explained Franklin about her coaching staff. “I enjoy being around them and feel inspired and motivated by each of them. We complement each other really well and have a good energy. We're all pretty dynamic and outgoing, so I'm really looking forward to working with them.”
That aptitude for propagating an in-house family atmosphere is one of the primary attributes that has made Franklin so successful on the recruiting circuit in her coaching career, as it has contributed to her expert ability to connect with players on a holistic level. That high degree of support and compassion that Franklin has for her players is entirely genuine and incredibly respectable.
With that being said, Franklin's unmitigated passion for the game of volleyball is just as much a part of who she is as her down-to-earth, conscientious personality, and, when speaking on her outlook for the 2017 season, that passion was rather conspicuous.
“I plan to keep the focus on our side of the net and us finding our identity this fall. We've talked a lot about what our competitive nature is going to look like. I'm a very intense and passionate person, so I think we're going to have a competitive intensity.”
The 2017 season figures to be one of much intrigue and excitement for the program. From the new coaching staff instilling its philosophy into a team hungry, to make some noise in the ACC, to the ascension of several veteran players into leadership roles, the storylines regarding Tiger volleyball are aplenty. However, with Franklin at the helm, those storylines will certainly not serve as distractions.
Over the course of Franklin's career, volleyball has never been an agenda-driven sport, as no outside expectations or questions have ever distracted her from staying true to the winning formula that has made her quite the success story in the sport that she loves. After all, in Franklin's opinion, if a college volleyball team is to become a champion on the court, its members must first become champions in life. Because championship behavior is more than just a mentality…it is a lifestyle.
Fueled by that lifestyle, Franklin is poised to usher in a new era of Tiger volleyball, an era that could very well set a new standard in the sport of college volleyball for what it means to be a championship team and, better yet, how to behave like one.
1. Being the best person you can be.
2. Being the best teammate you can be.
3. Being the best student you can be.
4. Being/becoming the best volleyball player you can be.