By DOUG DONNELLY
OTTAWA LAKE – Janie Bunge is the new varsity volleyball coach at Whiteford.
Bunge was a three-sport athlete at Whiteford, twice being named the Monroe County Region Athlete of the Year. She graduated from Whiteford in 2015 and went on to play four years of college volleyball before coaching for a couple of years at Concordia University in Ann Arbor.
Bunge, 24, was hired by the Whiteford Board of Education earlier this week. She takes over the program from Buffy Ruddy who resigned recently.
“I absolutely have always wanted coach and specifically at Whiteford. I never expected it to come this quickly. I couldn’t be more excited.”
Bunge made a tremendous impact on Whiteford athletics while attending school. Before ever putting on the Whiteford uniform, she was a well-known athlete, going to practices in multiple sports, serving as a team manager and helping with drills wherever she could.
By the time she reached high school, she moved right to the varsity in volleyball, basketball, and softball. She was a 1,000-point scorer in basketball and earned all-state honors in volleyball.
Ironically, it was coaching softball that cemented her decision to pursue a career in coaching.
“My cousin asked me to help out with 15u travel softball program out of Sylvania,” she said. “That was the first time I thought, ‘yeah, I can do this. This is something I love.’ I just really loved it. It was such an easy thing. It came natural to me. I just really love everything about coaching.”
Her father, Jeff, played football, basketball, and baseball at Whiteford while her mother, Holly, played volleyball, basketball, and softball. Her four older brothers also played multiple sports at Whiteford.
After high school, Bunge made three college stops – Grand Rapids Community College, Wayne State University and Concordia University. After her playing career ended, she turned to coaching.
“I had four years under my belt playing, but I still had a year and a half left of school,” she said. “I became the student assistant at Concordia. I got to keep my scholarship and I got to help out with the team.”
Bunge also coached a travel volleyball team in Grand Rapids.
After college she returned to Monroe County. For the past several weeks she has been a substitute teacher at Douglas Road Elementary school in the Bedford Public Schools system. She hopes to land a permanent teaching post in the county by this fall.
“I’m applying for a ton of teaching jobs in the fall,” Bunge said. “I’m looking at several districts, all throughout Monroe County.”
Her plans this week are to meet the returning members of the Bobcat volleyball team and begin hammering out an off-season schedule.
“I plan to meet the team, put faces to names,” she said. “I think they would like that as well. I have been out (of school) for a little while, so I do not know if any of them know me. I am excited to meet them. We are still setting up a summer schedule and the fall schedule. There is a lot to do.”