‘Mad Dog’ Madlock brought college-feel to BSHS volleyball in first year
Jan Madlock didn’t really aspire to be a volleyball player or coach.
She originally went out for volleyball in middle school only to add another sport to her skill set and to stay in shape. She already played basketball, softball and ran track.
But Madlock turned into a willing convert the summer before her senior year at Proviso East High School, Maywood, Ill., after attending a camp at Illinois State University.
“It opened up my world,” she said. “I was so turned on to the sport.”
Madlock’s love affair with volleyball has continued for more than 20 years and is still going strong. She recently completed her inaugural year as the head volleyball coach at Bonner Springs, leading the Braves to a 16-20 record (including winning 10 of the last 12 matches.)
“I got so much from my playing career, it’s almost spiritual for me,” she said. “It feels like because I got so much from it, I’m obligated to pass it on to someone else.”
After that summer, Madlock decided she wanted to pursue volleyball in college even though she wasn’t being recruited. She walked-on and ultimately red-shirted her first year in 1988 at Illinois State University.
Describing herself as athletically capable, Madlock recognized she didn’t have the skills to secure a spot in the rotation.
“I wasn’t prepared for the level of training and what the practices were like — it was hard,” Madlock said. “I spent a lot of extra hours training and lots of hours in the gym serving by myself. I was in a different league. I was the 13th-man on a 12-man team.”
Madlock improved enough during the year to start as a defensive player in 1989, contributing to her team in a major way. Her on-court leadership and self-discipline landed Madlock the title of captain for her last two college seasons, which included a historic Sweet Sixteen appearance in 1992.
“It was such an incredible year,” Madlock said. “Really magical, my last season.”
Former teammate Kim Nelson Brown, who is currently the head volleyball coach at Illinois Wesleyan University, said Madlock was “extremely intense.” Her teammates did, and still do, call her “Mad Dog”.
“She used to punch the floor and her knuckle would swell up if she missed a dig,” Brown said with a laugh.
Madlock led her team to a 30-4 record and the volleyball program’s first NCAA tournament berth. The 1992 Redbirds still hold the program record for most victories in season.
“She was a big part of that and really kept things at a level of intensity that we needed to maintain,” Brown said. “The seniors kept us grounded and for Jan it was like a job.“
The Redbirds eventually lost to Long Beach State University, ending Madlock’s career. After graduating, Madlock quickly transitioned from athlete to coach, leading her to stay briefly at her alma mater. She had coaching stints at the University of Iowa and Kansas University before entering high school academia.
“I was really trying to figure out what else I was supposed to be doing besides a volleyball coach,” she said.
Fluctuating between teaching and coaching at the high school level, Madlock took a break from coaching to start a family with the children she fostered — Mercedes, 8, Hailey, 7, and Keani, 3 — and ultimately adopted.
Finding herself in Bonner Springs, Madlock decided that the classroom was where she wanted to be. A job at Clark Middle School introduced Madlock to the district before she ultimately accepted her current position.
“It’s been like a dream come true and I am incredibly fortunate,” she said.
Taking over the program from previous coach Heather Campbell, Madlock introduced a different coaching style and approach to the game. BSHS senior Cassady Holloway said her new coach pushed the team more than what they had experienced in the past.
“It was honestly a big change,” she said of Madlock’s coaching. “It’s more strict and more college-like, which it’s better for us because we know she has the right experience and we know she knows what she’s talking about.”
Prior to the start of her first season with Bonner Springs, Madlock learned that her former Redbirds team would be reuniting to celebrate the team’s Sweet 16 appearance 20 years before.
As Madlock made plans to attend the reunion in Illinois she checked an updated schedule and realized she was supposed to be in Tonganoxie that same weekend for a tournament.
“I honestly was deflated for a good 24 hours,” Madlock said. “But my team, I asked them to be here and asked them to make the commitment. I can’t just walk away from this team for that.
“While that was a really special opportunity for me, we had our glory days,” she said. “This was a weekend event where I was really trying to build and lay a foundation here.”
The BSHS volleyball team ended up going 1-4 that day, but senior Jene Williams said the team dynamic would have suffered even more if Madlock missed the tournament.
“When she’s there, she brings us together as a whole,” Williams said. “It was such an honor for her to give up her important event to be there and coach us and cheer us on.”
With the Braves’ strong conclusion at the end of the season, Madlock said she is already thinking about next season and the momentum established for the program after her first year.
“I have a passion for life and it’s displayed when I coach,” Madlock said. “That passion comes from how I felt about the game.”