Cougars’ coach learns on and off the court

Melinda Wrye-Washington’s competitive nature drove her to pursue a master’s degree
Sunday, December 10, 2006 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 6:28 p.m. CDT, Thursday, July 3, 2008

Sitting on the bus with a cast on her broken ankle before the most important game of her junior season in high school, Melinda Wrye-Washington decided she didn’t want to simply cheer on the Eldon volleyball team.

“I cut it (the cast) off with a knife on the bus and stuck it (her ankle) in a bucket of ice and taped it up and played,” Wrye-Washington said. “We won and went to state.”

“It hurt a lot,” Wrye-Washington said. “It was huge, it was purple. But I was like ‘I am not going to sit on the sideline.’”

The competitive nature that drove Wrye-Washington to cut a cast off of her ankle and play in a high school volleyball game drove her to pursue a master’s degree in athletics administration from William Woods University which she earned on Friday, more than eight years after she earned her undergraduate degree from Columbia College.

“I’m never satisfied, I want to do everything, I want to be the best I can be,” Wrye-Washington said.

Gary Marriott, a regional coordinator at William Woods and a friend of Wrye-Washington’s family, said he has always known her to be competitive and said her competitiveness helped her in the classroom because she was a highly motivated student.

“She’s a very diligent and conscientious student,” Marriott said. “She’s very competitive and she’ll do her best at anything she does.”

To earn her degree, Wrye-Washington had a weekly four-hour class on Wednesday nights in Jefferson City. Marriott said classes are held on Wednesdays because it typically is the slowest day in the week for high school and college activities.

However, Wrye-Washington, who has a son, Mike, and a daughter, Madison, had much more than her own activities to deal with. She needed to make sure both of her kids had transportation to and from games and practices, something that was hectic during the fall when she and her boyfriend, John Welty, were both coaching fall sports and her children were playing on different traveling teams with games on Wednesdays.

“The nights both of them had doubleheaders in different towns, I had class and everybody had practice were the nights where it got particularly hard,” Wrye-Washington said.

Because Welty is the head football coach at Westminster College, the family is required to live in Fulton. Wrye-Washington commutes to Columbia College.

Family and friends helped get the kids to their games. A family friend and one of the coaches of Mike’s baseball team took him from school to the game at Twin Oaks and Welty took Madison from school and met Wrye-Washington in Millersburg and then later drove to Twin Oaks to pick Mike up. From Millersburg, Wrye-Washington would then take Madison to her softball game in Columbia and then drive to Jefferson City for her class, Wrye-Washington’s aunt would drive from Jefferson City to pick Madison up.

“It was just a mess, it was wild,” Wrye-Washington said.

The challenge provided extra motivation for Wrye-Washington to go after the degree.

“Don’t tell me I can’t, because I will,” Wrye-Washington said. “I just like the challenge.”

Despite juggling commitments to her volleyball team and her children, Wrye-Washington only missed two classes in a session once when she had to stay home because Mike was sick and she had to coach a rare Wednesday night game against William Woods. Missing two classes in one session means a deduction of a letter grade for that class. Losing that letter grade upset Wrye-Washington because it ruined her perfect GPA and she had to miss the second class because the William Woods game could not be rescheduled because it was a conference match.

“I got all A’s and one B, and the B is from a game with William Woods on a Wednesday night,” Wrye-Washington said. “I had missed one Wednesday which is no big deal, but I had one Wednesday game I couldn’t reschedule, with William Woods, and they docked me a letter grade. Instead of graduating with a 4.0, I ended up with a 3.9-something.”

Wrye-Washington said her goal is to eventually become an athletic director, but she is not looking to move from coaching yet.

“Most athletic administrators are in the gym five of seven nights doing something,” Wrye-Washington said. “The sitting in the office, the meetings, the organization, the paperwork, all that stuff wouldn’t be a problem. But with kids and everything they’re doing right now it would be real difficult to do that right now.”

Wrye-Washington said she has already begun researching doctorate programs in athletics administration and sports management or education to continue her education. Wrye-Washington said she wanted to go after that degree because it is a new challenge.

“I’m never satisfied,” Wrye-Washington said. “I’m one of those weird people that always needs to find something new to do. That’s in the back of my mind and I wouldn’t mind doing that when things slow down a little bit as my kids get a little bit older.”

Wrye-Washington’s coach at Eldon, Ann Gulshen, said she is not surprised to see Wrye-Washington succeed academically.

The same competitive desire that made her cut a cast off her ankle to play in a volleyball game drives her in every challenging aspect of life.

“Melinda likes challenges,” Gulshen said. “When she’s conquered something, she just goes onto the next challenge.”

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