They say the key to marriage is communication. But for most couples, that probably doesn’t mean trying to figure out who is going to call the timeout the high school volleyball team needs.
But that’s the case for Melissa and Slade Klein, who form a coaching duo at Gig Harbor High School. Melissa, a math teacher at the high school, is Gig Harbor’s head volleyball coach. Her husband Slade, an assistant.
“The first year coaching together, there was a game where we were both trying to call timeouts,” Melissa said. “We realized it wasn’t going to work.”
That was eight years ago, when they first started coaching club volleyball in Tacoma together, after moving to the area from Idaho.
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When Melissa, a math education major, sat down at a table full of engineering students at the University of Idaho, she probably didn’t know she was going to coach volleyball with Slade one day, let alone marry him. Their first date was on Valentine’s Day. Slade brought Melissa a rose, but forgot it in the car. When he went back to his car, it was rolling down a hill. He managed to catch it — and perhaps her, too.
They both played club volleyball at Idaho, where their love for the sport, and each other, grew. When they came to Tacoma, they started coaching the sport together.
We’ve always coached together. It was pretty much our marriage counseling.
Melissa Klein, Gig Harbor High volleyball coach
“When we first moved here (in 2007), we weren’t even married yet,” Melissa said. “We’ve always coached together. It was pretty much our marriage counseling.”
Since last season, they’ve teamed up at Gig Harbor High. The Kleins, who now live in Gig Harbor, said it’s a great chance to spend quality time together. For some, the idea of working together as coaches — and seeing their spouse at home every day on top of that — might seem like a bit much. But not to them.
“One year Slade coached club without me,” Melissa said. “It was really tough. We love the fact that we get to see each other all the time on the court. We love coaching the girls. Slade isn’t a teacher, so he enjoys being around the kids. We just have a heart for these young ladies.”
Another Klein likes to tag along to practice, too. Their 13-month-old daughter, Everlyn, is a regular attendee at practices and games. While raising a child is a new experience for the couple, they said they’re grateful for all the help they’ve had raising her.
“The Gig Harbor community has really helped us out,” Slade said. “In games, we just hand her off to parents in the stands. We get to coach and then we’ll go up there, if we need to. Everyone is just coming together to help us out.”
The small-town community feel of Gig Harbor reminds them of Idaho, they said. They have similar coaching styles — positive and upbeat. Slade enjoys the process, while Melissa enjoys the strategy behind the game.
“She’s more strategy, lineup,” Slade said. “I’m more technique, working with personal development. I love practice, she likes games.”
And over the years, they’ve managed to find a way to not call timeouts at the same time anymore.
“Over the years, we’ve been able to kind of fine-tune it,” Melissa said.
There are disagreements, at times. But generally over small things, such as lineup tinkering or strategy.
“We don’t have big philosophy disagreements,” Melissa said.
And even with trivial disagreements, they move on pretty quickly.
“When you have a lot of trust and love for that person, you can just kind of shake it off,” Slade said. “You don’t have to worry about that goal — you always know we have the same goal.”
The Kleins recognize that coaching together probably isn’t for every couple. But for some, it may be an idea worth exploring.
We get to do what we love with the person we love. There’s nothing better than that.
“If they can persevere through the challenges, it’s an awesome thing to do,” Melissa said. “You learn a lot about each other. You learn to trust each other more.”
Mostly, it’s a chance to share time together in a fun setting.
“We get to do what we love with the person we love,” Slade said. “There’s nothing better than that.”