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Coaching: More than winning games

Coach Hiltz talks over his adjustments during a timeout with his team last season.

Photo courtesy of ULM Athletics

Coach Hiltz talks over his adjustments during a timeout with his team last season.

John Stevens, [email protected]

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Trading in the cool sunny afternoons of Southern California for the unpredictable weather days of Northeast Louisiana may not be something everyone would be content with, but for head volleyball coach Patrick Hiltz, it’s been a blessing.

Hiltz first got into volleyball growing up when he was in fifth grade at his junior high Catholic school. From there, his career as a player took off, and he was able to make an easy transition into playing for his high school.

When he was a junior in high school, he was offered a chance to help out his coach with coaching a younger freshman team. Little did he know it at the time, but for Hiltz, this would make an impact on his volleyball life.

The young coach started working with a player that couldn’t quite get a certain hit down, but at the time, Hiltz was able to help her make the adjustments needed and the end result had him hooked.

“I call it the ‘aha’ moment, the look on her face when she turned around and looked at me and connected the dots,” Hiltz said.

After some coaching jobs in California and Arizona, he was able to come to ULM in the fall of 2011 after one of his former players, Ernest Vasquez, needed an assistant coach for his Warhawk volleyball team.

At the time, Hiltz was working bail bonds in Arizona, so coaching division one volleyball in Louisiana sounded like a dream come true.

“I love it here man. The people out here and the lifestyle out here fit my personality almost perfectly.”

He never imagined that a West Coast kid like himself would love living in Louisiana, a spot where the culture is completely different and even the food can be a shock.

“The first time I ever had crawfish was the hardest I’ve ever worked for food in my life,” Hiltz said.

He then went on to describe the food here as “tragically good” due to the fact that he feels it hurt his waistline.

While the food has kept him content, what Hiltz really stressed was the conversations he had with people. The decorated coach says that the difference in Louisiana compared to out West, is that here when you talk with people, it’s not just a quick “hello.” They generally care about what you have to say.

In 2012, the ULM assistant coach left for Nicholls State where he took the head coaching job position, but decided after one season to come back to Monroe.

“I loved being here so much that I said I would listen,” Hiltz said. “Coming back was not a hard choice. I knew I made the right decision when I was introduced as the head coach, and I got mobbed.”

In 2013, Hiltz was named the head coach of the ULM volleyball program and was able to bring in David Fischer as the sand volleyball coach to help build the program beyond indoor volleyball.

While the accomplishments of Hiltz at ULM are endless, one of the more notable ones is Hiltz being able to bring the Warhawks back to Fant-Ewing Coliseum.

Before the 2013 season, the team had been playing in the activity center where the games would be too crowded and sometimes, there was only standing room available.

Hiltz approached the ULM athletic administration and was able to move his team back into the coliseum for the first time since 2000.

When Hlitz returned after his one-year hiatus, he coached every player on his roster to at least one career high. Due to his humility though, Hiltz won’t brag about that year. He will tell you that his goal for his players is to coach them to be successful everyday, even off the court.

Hope Pawlik, who just graduated and finished her senior season at ULM in 2016, gratefully talked about how he has impacted her life.

“He was always willing to take a step to help me in my career and life outside volleyball,” she said.

Pawlik played four seasons under coach Hiltz and was well known by many on campus being that she recorded over 1,000 kills while playing at ULM.

While his outlook on the game used to be more heavily favored by the wins and losses over time, his motivation has changed. Helping his team become more successful in life is his first priority.

“I’m ultimately going to be judged by my win-loss record, but the judgment that matters to me is when you look at everyone that has left this program and how successful they are in life,” Hiltz said.

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Coaching: More than winning games