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A relationship built on the volleyball courts of Nebraska

By Jake Knabel on Feb. 5, 2019 in Volleyball

NOTE: A version of this story first appeared in the winter edition of Concordia University's Broadcaster magazine.

On the night this past fall when young Brady Boldt turned two-years-old, his mother and father brought him along on a recruiting trip. That’s life within a volleyball-crazed household that has been growing in number. Brady has welcomed the lifestyle. After all, it’s a lifestyle that at least partly defines mom and dad.

They certainly did not forget about Brady. They gave him a proper birthday party a few days later.

Said Concordia head volleyball coach Ben Boldt, “Brady was excited about going to watch volleyball. He’s going to grow up in it. It’s been fun having the team be role models for him. He asks about the players. If they ever get injured, he asks about them after the match. He’ll ask if she’s okay and stuff like that. He’s really invested in it. It’s been fun to see him embrace the team. (Brady’s sister) Addison keeps us up at night, but she’s also recruiting gold. People love her.”

Family and volleyball are what soak up a lot of time spent by Ben and Angie Boldt, the husband-wife coaching duo that now leads the Concordia volleyball program. The Boldts just finished their first season as Bulldogs in what feels like a homecoming for the Nebraska natives. Ben is from Hickman (42 miles from Seward) and Angie from St. Paul (94 miles from Seward).

The volleyball journeys of Ben and Angie have had them hopping around the states of Arkansas, Alabama, Iowa and back to Nebraska. Life has now come full circle for the Boldts, who first met in Nebraska while immersed in a volleyball setting.

Said Angie, “Something that was really important to us as we were married longer and thinking about having kids was that we wanted to be in Nebraska. That was the biggest driving force in our careers. How are we going to get to Nebraska?”

To understand the Boldts’ affection for the state of Nebraska is to understand their roots. Ben and Angie first met as student staff members for the Cornhusker volleyball program. Ben (arrived at the University of Nebraska in 2001) took part in drills, serving as what he called the “jump and hit” guy as a student manager for John Cook’s teams. Meanwhile, Angie (arrived at the University of Nebraska in 2003) first got a job assisting the director of operations for the volleyball program at Nebraska as a sophomore.

For the first couple years they knew each other, Ben and Angie were merely friends who dated other people. Eventually they came to realize they belonged together. They are stronger that way. That sentiment likely became more obvious amidst the volleyball opportunities that physically moved them apart at times since they first began dating.

Now their offices are separated by just a few paces of hallway floor within the Walz Human Performance Complex. They field the question frequently. How challenging is it to work with your spouse and to coach alongside one another?

“Everyone asks us that, but the thing about us is we met by working with each other,” Angie said. “It’s all we’ve known. That is where we have the advantage in being able to work with each other all the time. In our careers now to present day and in our dating and 10 years of marriage now, we’ve spent three seasons apart. Those three seasons were the oddest seasons for us because we were on different schedules. We met each other working with each other and that’s just what we know how to do.”

The résumés of the Boldts jumped off the page when Concordia began its search for a new volleyball coach during the holiday season of 2017. At the time, Angie was pregnant with Addison and was then the head coach at NCAA Division III Hendrix College in Arkansas. Ben served as the top assistant. The Boldts had also previously worked as assistants for the volleyball programs at NCAA Division I schools in the University of Alabama, the University of Arkansas and the University of Iowa.

All were opportunities that helped shape the Boldts as both coaches and in their personal lives, but none of those places quite felt like home. In their current roles, Ben and Angie continue to pull from what they learned in their formative years in Lincoln.

“When I first started working at Nebraska I thought it would just be a fun job,” Ben said. “I got to be part of the team in whatever capacity. I had no idea what I was actually getting myself into. The longer we were there and the more we learned, the more we had this idea of how to run a program. You really do get an education on how to see a high level volleyball team run. We had a good model of it so we had a good vision of what it could be. We just kind of fell into it.”

After finishing his undergrad and his master’s degree at Nebraska, Ben experienced a breakthrough in his coaching career. His first full-time job came as an assistant at Alabama, where Angie had already been on staff as a graduate assistant. They were together for the 2007 volleyball season at Alabama and then were engaged shortly afterwards.

It took another 10 years before they landed back in Nebraska at the same institution. On Dec. 19, 2017, Concordia officially introduced Ben as head volleyball coach and Angie as assistant volleyball coach. Ben and Angie had been outliers in their families, which had mostly remained rooted in Nebraska. But they had found the ideal situation to make their return.

“It comes down to fit for us,” Ben said. “This Concordia position is the perfect fit for us professionally and us personally. We’ve really loved it. We’ve lived our lives in areas outside of Nebraska and we’re very family-oriented people. We live right in the middle of both of our extended families now. Having that aspect of our lives being balanced has not only helped that part, it has helped our professional lives as well. We’ve come to this spot and figured out this is great volleyball, in a great conference, in a great location and we’re really passionate about it. It’s been a long journey, but we wouldn’t change any of it.”

The candidacy of Ben and Angie for any job has certainly been helped by their connection to Cook and the Nebraska program. When asked about the Boldts, Cook gave a ringing endorsement at the time of their hiring at Concordia. Wrote Cook, “It is a great day for volleyball in this state when two former Huskers land a dream job for them in Nebraska. Ben and Angie Boldt worked at Nebraska Volleyball, fell in love and now will take over the Concordia Volleyball Program. Their goal has been to be in Nebraska and they will now create another nationally ranked NAIA team in Nebraska. This is a WIN-WIN for Concordia and the Boldts.”

Ben’s final year working for Cook came in 2006, a season that saw the Huskers win the national championship. In the time since then, life has changed in some obvious ways. Ben and Angie have been married for 10 years and now have a son Brady and daughter Addison (born in April 2018).

That means Ben and Angie have a new juggling act on their hands, managing a roster of 30-plus student-athletes while also finding time to be parents. Sometimes the two responsibilities can be intertwined during certain team building activities. Brady and Addison then become the two most popular people in the room.

Said junior team member Emmie Noyd, “The whole team loves having Brady and Addison around. Whenever they are with us we are always playing with Brady and passing Addison around. It has always felt like a big family that we are a part of.”

That type of atmosphere is exactly what Ben and Angie want for their children – and their players. Ben and Angie are quickly learning how to properly balance it all, but they are comforted by the support from family, their team and the new community they have joined.

“It’s definitely a challenge, but we think our kids being able to grow up in this environment is an advantage for them,” Angie said. “They have a huge support system and they have 30 sisters. It’s really cool but they do get shuffled around a lot in the fall. I think it helps that we’re on the same schedule. Since he’s the head coach, we can tailor our schedule to what our family needs. If we need to cut a practice short 15 minutes because we have to pick our kids up for daycare we can do that. It’s been really fun. Our kids give us good balance. When we’re home, we’re home and when we’re at work, we’re at work.”

And when they’re on a volleyball court in Nebraska, it feels like home. For Ben and Angie, the “Nebraska foundation” is their foundation.