Occasional disagreements during practice or matches between Stanislaus State head volleyball coach Lauren Flowers and assistant Steven Flowers, her husband, aren’t unusual.
They last no more than a minute, Lauren Flowers said. They’re quickly on to the next play, drill or time out. It’s how they’ve learned to work together as coaches. And it exemplifies how their unique strengths complement each other.
Teaming with your spouse to coach a college program may not be for everyone — although Martha and Dale Moren served as Stan State’s co-head volleyball coaches in the 1980s Division III days and from 1989-91 when Stan State moved up to Division II — but the Flowers have done it for nearly eight years, balancing it with marriage and raising daughters Joy, 4, and Micah, 3.
“The biggest thing is not worrying about who’s right,” Steven said of coaching. “We both understand we want the same thing, and we’re always trying to pursue that. Not having an ego involved is important.”
Not having a big ego is Steven’s superpower, Lauren Flowers said. He prefers being an assistant and wants to see more women in top coaching positions.
Especially if one is his wife.
Lauren Flowers credits Steven, whom she married after graduating from Azusa Pacific University in three years, with leading her to her coaching career.
A 6-foot left-hander, she was a natural right-side hitter on the volleyball team but played only two college seasons.
“It was burnout,” Lauren said. “What’s interesting is how much more competitive I am as a coach than I was as a player.
“I had to learn so much about coaching.”
Steven, who’d played football and volleyball in high school, always wanted to coach and took an assistant coaching position with Western New Mexico University’s volleyball team after graduating from Oklahoma Christian University.
When Western New Mexico University’s head volleyball coach saw her resume, he insisted Lauren either play for the team or serve as an assistant coach.
Lauren Flowers couldn’t say no. She agreed to be a practice player-coach to help Steven show his coaching skills.
Although Lauren took on the role reluctantly, “it changed the trajectory of my career,” she said.
“I started falling in love with all the aspects of coaching,” Lauren said and plans to earn a teaching credential evaporated. “I learned from the head coach and Steven. Steven and I are very different and have very different strengths.”
“She loves conflict. I love community,” he interjects.
“I’m introverted and Steven is extroverted and makes everybody feel special,” Lauren said. “I’m the one who likes to get more organized and detailed. Steven makes it fun and energetic all the time. You really get two very different people.”
After Western New Mexico, they coached together at the University of Texas-Permian Basin, then Texas A&M University-Commerce. Steven left Commerce to coach at North Central Texas College last year.
After eight years as an assistant, Lauren sought a head coaching position, and when Steven saw the opening at Stan State, he called to see if they could come as a pair. Two days later he was told that was a possibility.
Lauren Flowers, who said she was inspired by the players during the interview process, was hired as head volleyball coach in February; Steven was hired later that month as her assistant.
“I had no concerns about hiring a wife and husband team,” said Assistant Athletic Director and Senior Women’s Administrator Alissa Aragon, who led the search committee. “Between Lauren’s ability to coach from a technical standpoint and analyze the game from a player perspective and Steven’s ability to work with student-athletes and build community, they really do complement each other very well.”
The team had been away from the court for 18 months because of the pandemic, and its coach resigned at the beginning of the 2021 season.
“We needed a coaching staff that would be great for both returning players and future players, coaches who would take us to the next level,” Aragon said.
The players have responded positively to the duo. The team’s 7-1 start is the best in the history of the program, which has had only five winning seasons.
“Within the first month of Lauren and Steven coaching, I had a few students thank me for bringing the Flowers on board,” Aragon said. “They felt themselves getting better, and they liked Lauren and Steven’s coaching styles.”
Working together with 19 volleyball players by day then caring for two toddlers at night might be challenging, but the Flowers love it. Having children helped them figure out the right balance, Lauren said.
“We take great pride in our training,” Lauren said. “We prioritize our work life balance, so we don’t have to be out recruiting three weekends a month.”
There’s plenty of volleyball talent in the region from which to recruit, and the Flowers believe they can make Stan State a volleyball power.
Even if they sometimes disagree on the best route, they trust each other’s talent and ability to get them there.