Jessica Biegert doesn’t hesitate to speak her mind if she believes it’s necessary to do so, particularly if the topic is equality and women.
Part of it comes from being a successful volleyball coach for 11 years – the past three at Kansas Wesleyan – but it’s also her nature in general.
Her boss, KWU Director of Athletics Steve Wilson, wouldn’t have it any other way.
“Jessica is one of my favorite people to have a conversation with because professionally she’s going to challenge you,” he said. “She is an advocate for female student-athletes and that’s exactly what we need.”
To that end Wilson has chosen Biegert to be KWU’s inaugural Senior Woman Leader. It’s a position that NAIA institutions will be required to fill by 2023 but Wilson wanted to start now.
In her role Biegert, according to the NAIA mandate, will “promote meaningful representation of women in the leadership and management of intercollegiate sports on NAIA campuses.”
Biegert, who will continue to coach the volleyball team, is excited about the opportunity to work with all of KWU’s female coaches and student-athletes.
“I’m a very passionate female that is very open to voicing my opinions and thoughts,” she said. “So now that I can be an advocate for women I can be speaking for others that feel like they don’t have the courage to do that.
“I’m happy Steve feels he can trust me in this role and be able to voice opinions.”
Wilson immediately thought of Biegert when he learned of the new initiative.
“The word leader is very intentional in the NAIA,” he said. “One of the important aspects of it is someone – and Jessica is perfect for it – who can coach coaches of females and can coach females to achieve what they ultimately can achieve.
“Part of Jessica’s job is to challenge me to ensure that I have equity at the top of my mind in every decision I make. She’s going to be a person that brings all the relevant information to the table and we have a great discussion when that happens. There’s going to be a lot of professional growth for our female coaches and administrators that comes out of this.”
Biegert will work with KWU’s approximately 200 female student-athletes, four head coaches, two administrations and numerous assistant coaches and graduate assistants.
“I hope that I can relate to all females in some way,” she said. “They have to be able to confide in me and voice concerns. And maybe sometimes not advocating for them but encouraging them to either fight for themselves or stick up for themselves.”
Biegert’s role is enhanced by the fact she’s the mother of two young children, Jaxson and Brexley.
“I’m also a mother advocate in terms of maternity leave, trying to figure out how to balance mom and coach and life,” she said. “I feel like my role is bigger being a mom coach and hopefully I can be a role model for those coaches, too.”
Biegert said job one is letting KWU’s coaches know what she’s doing.
“Just let them know my role and that I’m here. If they want to voice any concerns or have any questions then I can be the one that brings it up in the big picture meetings or even to Steve Wilson himself,” she said.
Biegert’s role is part of a larger KWU campus initiative.
“The most important piece of it is that it further solidifies our commitment to DEI (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion),” Wilson said. “The coolest part about this is it’s gotten incredible support from our administration. Dr. (Matt) Thompson (KWU president) was excited about it when we had an opportunity to discuss it. We all think Jessica’s going to do a great job in this role.”
Biegert’s team is 21-8 overall, 9-3 in the Kansas Conference, so far this season. She has a 56-39 record, 33-15 in conference play, at Wesleyan. She previously coached at McPherson College (three years) and Hesston College (five years) before coming to Salina in February, 2019.