BGSU head volleyball coach Danijela Tomic remembers the day that she fell in love with sports, and that love has guided her from multiple countries to where she is now.
Growing up in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Tomic didn’t know what her future held. She just knew she wanted volleyball to be involved.
“I remember the day that I fell in love with sports. The first time I saw volleyball, a spark was ignited in me; I don’t know why, I just loved it. I told my mom that I wanted to play volleyball and started going to middle school practice when I was very young; I started going like twice a week, and it never stopped. That’s kind of where my love started for the sport, and it’s still there,” she said.
The spark that fueled her — love for volleyball — is still there as she continues to pursue her passion of coaching volleyball at a high level. But it wasn’t an easy road for the coach who is now in her seventh season at the helm of the BGSU volleyball program. It spanned multiple countries and states, but it all has led her to Bowling Green.
As with most coaches, Tomic originally had a dream of playing volleyball at the highest level, which started at the age of 16 when she moved to Croatia.
“I got an opportunity to play at the highest level; at that time the country was Yugoslavia, that was in ‘89 I believe. It was kind of the highest level that I could go to. Volleyball was my passion, and my parents were kind enough to let me leave home when I was 16. When I graduated, I moved to the capital to start university; I studied physical education there,” Tomic said.
Eventually, her studies and efforts to play volleyball just became too much to handle. So when she heard a school in the United States was looking for volleyball players, she jumped at the opportunity.
“I gave my number to the contact person, and that evening someone called me from the University of Arkansas Little Rock. I wanted to finish my degree, and I still wanted to play volleyball, and it was hard to do both. I ended up being a transfer student because I was already almost a junior at the university. That’s where my journey in this country started,” she said.
That was just the beginning of her journey in the United States. While playing volleyball at Arkansas Little Rock, her coach there helped her to realize that she could be more than just a P.E. teacher, and she didn’t have to play volleyball to have a future in the sport that she loved.
“The head coach of volleyball at Arkansas Little Rock, she was the first female coach that I had in my career. All of my coaches prior to coming to the U.S. were male coaches, so I thought that all I could do was become a P.E. teacher because I didn’t have role models back home. Then when I came to the States my coach was a female, I saw other female coaches, and that was just something,” she said.
The coaches at Arkansas Little Rock saw something in Tomic and offered her to be a student assistant at the school; that offer propelled Tomic towards a successful career coaching volleyball that spawned multiple schools including LSU, Florida International and now BGSU.
“It was Rick Melo who was athletic director at Florida International and was the athletic director at Little Rock when I played. He gave me a chance to be a first time head coach in 2005. I coached there for seven years and had great players who made me a better coach,” Tomic said.
That success in terms of wins and losses though, isn’t the most important thing for Tomic. She got into coaching for a completely different reason.
“If our players develop the values and virtues that we believe makes successful people, then the process of learning how to play volleyball is going to be successful, and the outcome is going to be the result of that,” she said.
This doesn’t go unnoticed either, as Macie Linne, a senior at BGSU and one of her players, appreciates the time that Tomic invests in building her player’s character.
“I think that developing us as people is something that I really appreciate about coach. You don’t find that a lot in coaches, they are really here to just win which she does love to win a lot, but I think that she really does invest so much into us. She’s sending us podcasts constantly, she’s sending us books to read, she just really wants us to be better,” Linne said.
Linne and many of the other players on the team feel as if Tomic is really preparing them for anything that comes at them in life.
“I think just like outside the court, knowing how much she cares about us and constantly is thinking about us, and I think that since this is my final year heading to my career post-volleyball, like I know that I am going to be set to go, I know that I’m going to be able to set myself apart from everyone else,” Linne said.
Through all of this, coach Tomic feels as though she has found the right place in Bowling Green as she is not only building a winning program, but building winning people too.
“My goal always as a coach is if I leave a place, I want to leave it as a better place. I want the people that come after me to say wow these student athletes have a great character and discipline. If I leave, and eventually everybody leaves, I want to leave it a better place than what I found it,” she said.