Weather Forecast


Pete's Point: Teacher/coach now working closer to home

Nicole and Josh Hirschey are on the coaching staff for the Pine River-Backus volleyball team. Nicole, a 1997 PR-B graduate and former Tiger volleyball player, is an assistant coach while Josh is the head coach after having a similar role the past three years at Hill City. Photo by Pete Mohs

Most families face difficult career decisions at least once in their lives.

Josh and Nicole Hirschey were in that situation this spring.

For the past decade, the couple lived in Pine River. That worked for Nicole since she works from home and also lives near her family as a 1997 Pine River-Backus High School graduate.

But the location was a challenge for Josh because of his daily trips as a teacher/volleyball coach at Hill City High School, which is more than an hour trip northeast of Pine River.

"I had enough of the driving," Josh recalled. "It was 68 miles one way, so I put on a lot of miles over the years."

The extensive miles were one thing, but Nicole added that the time away from family was another key factor.

"I sometimes traveled to Hill City with my kids to help out at volleyball games," Nicole said, "but that was hard during the school year with young kids. It wasn't worth the miles and time away, so we had planned to move and put our house on the market."

But their home didn't sell, and the Hirscheys eventually decided to take it off the market.

"We weren't sure what to do," Nicole said.

That was last November, and in May a teaching position became available in the PR-B school district. There was also an open position for a head coach with the Tigers' varsity volleyball team.

"I was hired for the job," Josh said while watching a volleyball practice last week. "So far, so good. It looks like it will all work out."

Josh is taking over a PR-B squad that has been a consistent contender in the Northwoods Conference in recent years. But he also leaves a talented group of senior volleyball players that had hoped to contend for a section title at Hill City.

"We combined to win 41 matches the past two years," said Josh, who had been the Hornets' head varsity coach the past three seasons. "We had a good volleyball program."

Josh also likes the skill level of the Tigers, and is optimistic about their season.

"It wasn't able to watch (the PR-B) volleyball team the past few years because I was busy coaching in Hill City," he said, "but I did get to coach them in some summer volleyball matches, and I saw some of these (PR-B) girls play basketball the last couple of years since I was living here."

"We have a good group of athletes. We will be switching some players around, but the fundamentals are pretty much the same."

Josh is excited about his new opportunity, and having Nicole, along with Kay Sawyer, serve as his assistant coaches.

"It's exciting to be coaching here," said Nicole, who played volleyball for the Tigers while in high school. "My senior year was Tom Lupella's first year back coaching at Pine River-Backus. He had some real good teams over the years."

Josh, a 1997 Staples-Motley graduate, and Nicole met while both were attending Central Lakes College in Brainerd. Josh finished his college work at Bemidji State University while Nicole went to the University of St. Thomas. They both stayed involved in volleyball as intramural or adult league players over the years. Josh eventually served three seasons as an assistant coach at Hill City. He was away from coaching for three years at the school before becoming the Hornets' head volleyball coach in 2011.