From Maynard to Notre Dame to Park: Kristina Jameson has had a journey to becoming Park's volleyball coach
Maynard, Minn. is 117 miles straight west from Minneapolis and has five churches, one bar and one restaurant. It has a population around 350 people and everyone knows everyone.
It's also the hometown of a volleyball player that grew up on a farm, attended the University of Notre Dame on a volleyball scholarship, coached after completing her degree and has lived her dream.
That individual is Kristina Jameson, the head coach of Park volleyball.
"I started playing volleyball when I was in seventh grade," Jameson said. "I fell in love with the sport, so it became a big part of my life."
Two nearby towns—Clara City and Raymond—combined with Maynard to form MACCRAY high school and Jameson played on the varsity team. During her time in high school, her coach told her that she had the ability to play at a Division I school.
Jameson couldn't believe it and focused her attention on the sport as she attended club volleyball at Southwest State University.
"When I was in high school, we didn't have (cell) phones," Jameson said. "We constantly played sports if we weren't at school or doing homework."
As she played club volleyball, she traveled to different places and that's when colleges started seeing her talent. Then, she started getting mail.
Lots of mail.
After sifting through the mail with family, she decided to focus on three schools: Duke, Texas A&M and Notre Dame.
Jameson's favorite memory during her recruitment process was when Notre Dame's head coach, Debbie Brown, went to Maynard to visit Jameson and her family. Jameson gave Brown directions to her family's farm, but the problem is that there aren't street names near her home.
"I told her to take a left at the fertilizer tanks and directions like that," Jameson said with a smile on her face. "She got there, but it was a new type of directions for her."
After the visit at the farm, Brown went back to her car and flies were surrounding it. Jameson felt bad about it, but also realized that's what happens when you live on a farm.
That visit is one of the reasons Jameson decided to become part of the Irish family, and she went into Notre Dame as a pre-med student. During her first couple of years at Notre Dame, Jameson took an art class and fell in love with the creativity and the overall feel of art.
She decided to switch her major to art and that's what she graduated with at the end of her time at Notre Dame.
During those first two years, Jameson was also learning the aspects of not only college volleyball, but Notre Dame volleyball. The Irish were outside the top 20 when she came to college, but by the time she left the team was in the top 10 and almost top five.
There were different expectations and different ways of life as a student-athlete at Notre Dame. Jameson had a great time learning the college environment both on and off the court, but once her junior year came it became a bigger moment.
Jameson became a starter for the Irish.
"It was a dream come true to be a starter for a college volleyball team," Jameson said. "I was so fortunate to learn from some great coaches and teammates to be a starter for two years at Notre Dame."
One of Jameson's favorite matches was when Notre Dame took on Stanford. Jameson was matched up with one of Stanford's biggest hitters and she was blocked three times in a row.
The Irish took a timeout and Jameson had no idea how to get past the blocker, but her coach told her to just keep swinging and one will get through. The biggest moments Jameson took with her from college were when the team traveled across the country to compete.
It was one thing Jameson took with her after college, because she knew those experiences and memories she wouldn't get back.
During her senior year, she had another opportunity as an athlete. Jameson was close friends with many of the women on the Notre Dame basketball team. That season, the Irish were facing many different injuries and were down on numbers, so they asked Jameson to come practice with the players.
Jameson thought it would be fun, but little did she know that she was actually going to be on the team for part of the season. She got in the record as she recorded four points in her Notre Dame career, but her season ended when an elbow broke her nose during the Seton Hall game.
After that game, she told the coaches that she was done playing basketball and she became a fan in the stands. The only problem with that decision is that Notre Dame women's basketball went to the Final Four that season.
"Of course, the time I stop playing for the team, they make it to the Final Four," Jameson said jokingly. "It was an incredible experience to play for the team because we played teams like Connecticut, where their players were no joke.
"I was so blessed to play at Notre Dame and get an education from that university."
After college, Jameson traveled with a friend to Europe and Africa before coming back to Minnesota.
When she came to Minnesota, she accepted a job at Park High School. While at Park, she decided to help the head coach in volleyball, but she was sent to Oltman Middle School for three years.
During those three years, she stopped coaching and started having children. Jameson has three children that mean everything to her. She then decided to start coaching again once she came back to Park.
She started coaching lacrosse before she became the freshman volleyball coach. Jameson loved the freshman team because she was able to teach the basics to developing players. There was potential in seeing them grow into varsity players and she loved seeing them develop their skills.
Jameson loved assistant coaching because the full responsibility wasn't on her and instead was on the head coach. That's why when the head coach position came up, it took Jameson quite a bit to accept the head coaching role.
"If it wasn't for the help of my other coaches and the a great support system from the parents and players, I wouldn't be in this position," Jameson said. "I just love getting to know each of the players and each one I care for like they're my child."
Even though Jameson works at Park and is living in the Cities, she always likes going home. Her parents live in the Cities, but her sister took over the family farm in Maynard. When she gets the opportunity on an empty weekend to travel home, she usually takes advantage of it.
Jameson will travel that 117 miles straight west until she reaches the five churches, one bar and one restaurant. Then she'll turn onto a gravel road to the house she grew up in, the house she found her love for volleyball and developed her skills in art and coaching.
Once she reaches that gravel road, Jameson knows exactly where she is.