Providing guidance is something Bunyan Cocar does for a living as the co-pastor at the First Baptist Church in Dixon.
He'll bring those same skills to his latest undertaking – head coach of the Dixon High School varsity volleyball team.
Cocar was hired at the May 15 Dixon school board meeting. He replaces Kelsey Polte, who resigned from her teaching and coaching positions in Dixon to pursue a teaching job overseas.
Cocar will oversee a program that was once one of the area's strongest, but has fallen on hard times of late. The Duchesses finished 9-20 in 2012.
"I love Dixon," Cocar said, "and I feel like I can give the volleyball program a push in the right direction to get back to where it should be – at the top tier of programs in this area. I think that my experience will help them do that. I have a passion for it, so I hope to give them some drive and a competitive spirit."
Cocar, 33, has an extensive background in the sport. He played it for 4 years at Mundelein High School, and led the Mustangs to a 32-3 record as a senior.
He played club volleyball for 2 years at Northern Illinois, then was the women's team manager for one season.
Coaching-wise, he cut his teeth in Amboy, first as the freshman coach in 2006, then the varsity coach for three seasons after that.
He got out of coaching after the 2009 season as he and his wife, Rachel, raised their two sons, James, 5, and John, 2.
Cocar remained active as a player, however, in noon pickup games at the Dixon Family YMCA, as well as two area leagues. One of his league teammates was Polte, who talked him into accepting the head sophomore coaching position for the coming season.
When Polte decided to leave, however, the head coaching position became available. Cocar interviewed, and was offered the job the next day.
He had his first open gym at the end of May, and also has the Duchesses competing in leagues in Princeton and Sterling. He loves the spirit of the girls he's worked with so far.
"They want to be better and they want to grow as players," Cocar said. "I'm just thrilled to have athletes of that caliber to coach and teach, because they'll run through a brick wall for you if you tell them it will make them a better volleyball player. It's exciting to have those type of players in the program."
To allay any fears or concerns about his day job, one of the first things Cocar did was send out a letter to his players and their parents.
"I said I'm a pastor," Cocar said, "but I'm not going to convert you to anything other than a good volleyball player. My outside job only influences how I behave. It's not going to affect my coaching too much – it will affect me in being a good coach and not an overbearing and hot-headed coach."
Cocar is confident he has the chops to be a successful coach. He noted he has attended at least a few Dixon games a season the past several years, and it's more a matter of fine-tuning a few things, rather than a major overhaul, to get things headed in the right direction.
Good attendance at open gyms this summer, he noted, has been a good start.
"It's just volleyball IQ that these girls lack, and knowing the game," Cocar said. "To be a good team, you have to be in the right position, and that's a lot of skill. Some people think you can stand around and be a good volleyball player, but I tell them if you're not moving, you're not playing the game right. You have to always move and anticipate.
"I expect some growing pains this year, but I know that we're going to be a competitive team, and I'm looking forward to that."
High school: Mundelein, class of 1998
College: NIU, class of 2002
Family: Wife, Rachel; sons James, 5 and John, 2
FYI: Co-pastor (with Rachel) at First Baptist church in Dixon the past 8 years. ... Hired as Dixon varsity volleyball coach on May 15. ... Previously coached at Amboy