Lambs find forever home at Wichita State

Head+coach+Chris+Lamb+talks+to+the+team+during+the+game+against+Delaware+on+Sep+11+at+Horejsi+Family+Volleyball+Center.

Khánh Nguyễn/ The Sunflower

Head coach Chris Lamb talks to the team during the game against Delaware on Sep 11 at Horejsi Family Volleyball Center.

For the Lambs, their individual passion for the sport of volleyball helped form the relationship they have today. Chris Lamb and Shannon Lamb have worked for the Wichita State Women’s Volleyball Program for 22 years. 

Chris is the head coach of the volleyball program at Wichita State and his wife Shannon is the Director of Operations for the program. For her first nine seasons with the program, Shannon was an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator.  She has been the director of operations for the program for the past 13 years. 

The Lambs’ background with volleyball started first as a player, and second as a coach.  Shannon is from Davenport Iowa, and played collegiately at St. Ambrose University. She was named a three-time first team all-conference selection and earned all-district twice before graduating with a degree in sports management in 1993.

The year after graduating from St. Ambrose, she became head coach of the program there. She led her team to the 1995 NAIA Volleyball Championship Tournament, and was named Coach of the Year in the conference. 

Chris is from Sebastopol, California. Due to not many men’s volleyball leagues being around at the time, he started out playing grass volleyball. He then went on to play men’s club volleyball and started his coaching career at El Molino High School in Forestville, California in 1987. While at El Molino, he led his team to four North Coast Section Championships and made the state tournament for four seasons in a row. 

The Lambs went on to coach at the NCAA Division one level in volleyball, which would be the beginning story of their relationship together. Shannon first met Chris when she was trying to recruit some of his players from Empire Volleyball Club while she was a coach at the University of Northern Illinois. 

 “I was on the court watching his setters and then I spotted him,” Shannon said. “Chris is a fun coach to watch because he doesn’t just sit on the bench. He you know is everywhere on the court at least where he is allowed to go. I like the communication and connection he had with his tema, and the energy. He had a lot of positive energy and the competition was really great there”. 

Shannon decided to introduce herself to Chris after watching his setters play. She said they became friends soon, and started dating three years later while Shannon was a coach at the University of Arizona and Chris was a coach at Washington State University. 

After deciding they wanted to get married in a few years, the Lambs began exploring their options due to wanting to coach in the same city. Chris got a call from Wichita State’s athletic director at the time, Jim Schaus. Schaus asked Chris to interview for the head coaching job at Wichita State. 

Due to Shannon being on Wichita State’s campus before and the potential she knew the program had, she convinced Chris to go to the interview with Schaus. However, Shannon told Chris that the only piece of the program she was worried about at Wichita State was the arena, which was then called Henry Levitt Arena. 

“So there were things about the arena that were just worn down and needed to be updated and definitely air conditioning and the first thing that Jim Schaus did was he pulled out the blue prints for what became Charles Koch Arena,” Shannon said. “So Chris called me that night and was like you got what you wanted.”

“This is the place where they are getting a new arena and all the other things that you talked about I really like too.”  

While working for the volleyball program together, Chris got asked by faculty, and opposing coaches from other teams how he could even coach with his wife or how they make it work.

 “I honestly don’t understand it,” Chris said. “I get that it might not be for them but to say that it’s hard, they couldn’t do it…. it was what we were hoping to find and we found it.” 

The Lambs said even though they enjoy working together, their relationship and then later marriage was something that they were proud of but not something they announced to everyone. Chris said that other coaches from other programs at Wichita State were unaware of him and Shannon’s relationship. 

“I think a funny story is that people didn’t even know that we were dating,” Chris said. “Our golf coach.. his office was next to mine. We were here like two years before we got engaged and he heard I was getting married and he said who’s the lucky girl? I was like well Shannon. Who’s Shannon? My assistant. You and your assistant are getting married? He didn’t have any idea.”

However, despite others’ lack of knowledge of their relationship in the beginning of their careers at Wichita State, the Lambs said they definitely felt like they  found a home at Wichita State and have created a family atmosphere. 

“I’ve really enjoyed watching Wichita State grow as a university and how much the campus has evolved and just the No. 1  thing is all the girls in the program,” Chris said. “I remember bus trips more than matches and I’m a volleyball head. Just how many former athletes have still remained close with us.

Shannon said the community surrounding the volleyball program and the players have helped make being at Wichita State a sense of comfort. 

“Our relationships with former student athletes are still successful just as they are part of our family [and] we raised our daughters around them.” “I think that it’s just become our home, and that didn’t take very long. The volleyball community in Wichita and the surrounding areas has grown tremendously since we first got here.”