Meeker & Meeker
Senior Sydney Meeker says having her dad coach her volleyball team is, simply put, normal for her. Her dad, Head Coach Jeff Meeker, has been coaching her for close to a decade now, officially and unofficially, and has been her Ram coach her entire career at Cornell College.
“I’m glad she likes me enough to stick around,” says Coach Meeker. “Seriously, though, it is a real blessing. I get to see her every day and the two of us have a lot in common.”
They both love spending time outdoors, running, live music, and are fiercely competitive. They are even-keeled and laid-back in temperament despite their strong inclination to compete, and clearly, they love and respect each other a lot.
“We get along very well and have a great relationship,” says Sydney. “He has taught me so much throughout the years and is one of my biggest role models.”
Clearly, Sydney was taught well. She stands out as the 2019 volleyball Midwest Conference Player of the Year and American Volleyball Coaches Association Honorable Mention All-American.
Coach Meeker says that his roles as coach and father share many similarities. His goals as a coach and as Sydney’s dad are to provide guidance, love, and opportunities for growth.
“I think one of the reasons Sydney and I work so well together is because she knows that I always love her, even if I am not happy with her performance or actions in the gym,” says Coach Meeker.
He is a nine-time Conference Coach of the Year and has compiled 410 collegiate victories, highlighted by an unparalleled run of success through 18 seasons at Cornell. His 349 wins on the Hilltop are the most by a Cornell coach in any sport.
They both agree that Cornell’s volleyball team stands out because of the people in the program. Coach Meeker says that the student-athletes on the team are great volleyball players and outstanding individuals. When asked what one word describes the volleyball program, he says, “integrated.”
“Our goal is to be the most complete volleyball program in the country; combining academics, volleyball, service, campus involvement, international travel, and personal growth opportunities.”
His team members give back and incorporate service into their lives as much as possible. They conducted two youth volleyball clinics and donated equipment during a May 2018 trip to Costa Rica. They’ve volunteered at Hope Lodge for cancer patients and Relay for Life. In addition, they’ve worked with Angel Tree gifts, Special Olympics, new student move-in, and a reading program at Washington Elementary in Mount Vernon.
When COVID-19 interrupted Coach Meeker’s plans for his team, he quickly found new ways to continue to build up his team.
“Our nontraditional season in the spring was all virtual, and we made an unexpected amount of progress as a program. We focused on mindset training, watched videos to help process visual information on the court, engaged in anti-racism dialogue and training, and learned a great deal about each other during our Zoom sessions. We expect to do the same this fall as COVID-19 forces us to think about volleyball, effort, attitude, growth, and being a great teammate in new and different ways,” he says.
After a bad night out on the court, Sydney says she and her dad don’t talk about it that night; instead, they discuss it the next day. She says after a good night on the court, one of the best things she likes to hear from her dad is, “I’m proud of you.”
Sydney is completing her bachelor of arts in biochemistry and molecular biology with a minor in psychology this academic year and will get one final year as a Ram on the team. But she gets to keep enjoying life as Coach Meeker’s daughter for a lifetime.
Coach Meeker says his hopes for Sydney are “that she continues being brave and amazing.”