Former BYU women's volleyball coach Elaine Michaelis received a big surprise Friday night as approximately 50 of her former players traveled from as far away as Finland to honor her at the BYU vs. Wyoming volleyball match.
Michaelis retired from coaching in May 2002 after 40 years guiding the Cougar program. Michaelis stepped away from the coaching profession as the all-time leader in victories among female coaches in collegiate volleyball at any level with an 887-225-5 (.796) record in the 33 seasons since records were kept. She ranks second overall in Division I women's volleyball victories, trailing UCLA's Andy Banachowski (919 wins in 35 seasons). Had all 40 of Elaine's years been recorded, she would likely have more volleyball wins than any other coach, men's or women's.
She never suffered a losing season and finished her career with 28 consecutive 20-win seasons. Her teams qualified for 30 of the 33 national tournaments, including 20 of 21 NCAA tournaments. Her 1972-73 team finished second and her 1993 squad advanced to the NCAA Final Four, the first BYU team, men's or women's, to do so. Her 1986 team finished the regular season ranked No. 1 in the nation. She achieved an overall national tournament record of 73-44 (.624).
Her teams were dominating in conference play, winning 23 conference titles including the inaugural championship in each of the five volleyball leagues in which BYU participated. She won over 90 percent of her conference matches with a 356-37 (.906) league record.
Her coaching honors are many. She was named the 2002 Volleyball National Coach of the Year by the United States Olympic Committee and was the recipient of the 2001 USA Volleyball All-Time Great Coach Award. She received the American Volleyball Coaches Association Founders Award in 1996 and the Volleyball Festival Distinguished Service to U.S. Volleyball Award in 1993. She was the 1987 Tachikara Northwest Region Division I Coach of the Year and 1996 NCAA District 7 Coach of the Year. She was selected conference coach of the year on eight different occasions.
Michaelis was inducted into the Utah Summer Games Hall of Fame in 1987, the Hall of Fame of the Utah Network of Women and Girls in Sport in 1990, and was one of three 1993 honorees of the Salt Lake City Old Time Coaches Association. She was the 1994 recipient of the Dale Rex Memorial Award, an honor given annually by the BYU Cougar Club to the person who has contributed the most to amateur athletics in the state of Utah.
Respected throughout the collegiate volleyball world for her unparalleled volleyball mind, Michaelis was always gracious and dignified before, during and after matches. She was able to bring in top-flight talent and teach sound fundamental volleyball, which resulted in players earning many honors over the years. Under her guidance, 19 players earned 51 All-America awards. Three players earned national player honors, including Mariliisa Salmi, the 1986 CVCA Player of the Year. Four athletes earned eight GTE Academic All-America awards.
Michaelis has been part of BYU's women's athletic program since she was a student participating in volleyball, basketball and softball from 1956-60. An excellent athlete, she once pitched a no-hitter and two one-hitters on the same day during a regional softball tournament in Colorado in 1959. Through the 1960s and into the early 1970s, she coached volleyball, basketball, softball, and field hockey. She continued on as basketball coach until 1977, logging an intercollegiate record of 48-34 from 1972-1977. She also served as director of the women's intramural and extramural programs at BYU for 10 years.
In 1995, she became the director of women's athletics, overseeing one of the nation's top women's intercollegiate programs. A perennial top-20 finisher in the annual Sear's Director's Cup honoring the nation's top overall athletic programs, BYU receives a significant portion of its high marks from its women's teams. Of the 11 women's teams, last year six won conference titles and nine teams advanced to NCAA play, with cross country achieving its third national title in the past five years.
She has bachelors (1960) and masters (1962) degrees in physical education from BYU and holds rank of associate professor of physical education and full athletic professional.