Erika Waycaster knows what her volleyball players are going through.
Waycaster, 29, was part of Walters State Community College’s first volleyball team in 2012. Now she’s leading Pellissippi State Community College’s first volleyball team as the school’s head coach.
“I’ve been telling the girls: what I’m asking you to do, I’ve done myself,” said Waycaster, a native of Greeneville, Tennessee, who started playing volleyball in sixth grade.
Waycaster joined Pellissippi State on Aug. 1, the last of Athletic Director Brock Evans’ hires for Pellissippi State’s inaugural season of competitive athletics. The college announced in November that it would add competitive athletics starting fall 2023, after it was accepted into the National Junior College Athletic Association in October.
“Erika is a great hire for us. She has spent seven years already within the TCCAA and Region 7,” Evans said. “She came highly recommended to us by a number of present and past college coaches that knew her character and work ethic. It was apparent early in our talks that she was ready and prepared to take the step from assistant coach to head coach. I can’t wait to watch her instill her brand of volleyball in our program.”
Waycaster already has built a team of 12 players, who will play their first home game Tuesday, Sept. 5 at 6:30 p.m. against Cleveland State Community College. Home games will be played in the Student Recreation Center on Pellissippi State’s Hardin Valley Campus, 10915 Hardin Valley Road, Knoxville.
“They’re already growing leaps and bounds in the gym,” Waycaster said, with players from several area high schools including Hardin Valley, Heritage and William Blount. “It’s great seeing them come together.”
This is Waycaster’s first head coach job at the collegiate level, but she’s served as assistant volleyball coach at Walters State for the past 6½ years. While she wasn’t looking for another job, Waycaster said building a volleyball program “from the ground up” was both a unique experience and an exciting opportunity that she couldn’t let pass.
“I’ve always wanted to have my own program, and I love the Junior College level of play,” Waycaster said. “The NJCAA – you can’t beat it.”
But Waycaster’s goals for the program don’t stop at growing a program. She said she is also committed to the growth of her players off the volleyball court.
“I know what it’s like to be a student athlete, and they’re just now getting their feet wet in the college game,” she said. “Academically, college is going to be a little more challenging, juggling their classes with practices and games, but this is the time to start figuring out how life works. They’ll learn time management and how to take responsibility for themselves.”
In her dual role as coach and academic adviser, Waycaster is interested in investing in students on and off the court and preparing her players for “life after volleyball,” she said.
“They’re here at Pellissippi State to figure out what they want to be,” Waycaster said. “I’m excited to be a Panther and to help lead these young women to be strong women, on and off the court.”
For more information about Pellissippi State Athletics, visit www.pstcc.edu/athletics.