Ten years later, Jen Malcom has returned home

Assistant Coach Jen Malcom Keeping her focus on her players during the Iowa State vs. Oklahoma volleyball game.

Trevor Holbrook

Jen Malcom knows a thing or two about blocking.

Malcom, a former Iowa State middle blocker from 2006 to 2008, holds blocking records for the Cyclones that still stand today.

She played under current coach Christy Johnson-Lynch; Johnson-Lynch evaluated Malcom’s intangibles as a player and offered a coaching position almost eight years after Malcom’s playing career concluded.

“One of the things that was great about Jen [Malcom] when she was a player, she was so relentless, and I think she’s really instilling that in our players,” Johnson-Lynch said.

Malcom, a Schaller native, relocated to New York after high school. Malcom played two seasons for Syracuse University, leading the Orange in almost every blocking category both seasons.

Fresh into Johnson-Lynch’s tenure at Iowa State, she recruited Malcom back to the midwest. In Malcom’s final two seasons of eligibility, the 6-foot-1-inch middle blocker adopted a pivotal role.

After redshirting in her first season in Ames, Malcom provided durability, playing in 67 of 68 matches. In those matches, Malcom was a thorn in the opponent-hitters’ sides.

Malcom etched her name in the Iowa State record book, finishing with the most block assists in a match (13), the most block assists in a season (123), and the eighth-most career-block assists (279).

After the 2008 season, Malcom departed Ames, exhausting all of her eligibility. Malcom’s next venture was a transition from playing to coaching.

After a four-year stint as an assistant coach for Virginia Tech, Malcom accepted a position with Tennessee’s volleyball team.

Tennessee’s middle blockers were its strength. Malcom left her fingerprints all over the volunteer program, allowing her blocking knowledge to trickle down to Tennessee’s players.

After Malcom’s lone season at Tennessee, Johnson-Lynch invited Malcom to join the Iowa State staff.

“Christy’s known I’ve wanted to come back since I’ve started coaching about seven years ago, so every opportunity that’s come open I’ve been in the mix,” Malcom said. “Then, this time she reached out to me and finally [it] was time to come back.”

Malcom accepted the position at Iowa State in the spring of 2016. Since Malcom’s arrival, her role with the team hasn’t changed too much.

“[My role has] pretty much been the same throughout, since I got here,” Malcom said. “[I’ve] just kind of [been] working with the middles and helping with the blocking side of things on defense.”

This season, Iowa State’s blocking and middle blockers have been a strength for the Cyclones. In previous years, it hasn’t always been that way.

Recently, freshman middle blocker Avery Rhodes has performed at a high level for the Cyclones. Rhodes, brought in by Malcom, has attributed some of her quick progress to Malcom.

The middle blocker position, like any position in volleyball, requires the player to be capable of being versatile. Malcom is instilling that in the freshman.

“[Malcom is] teaching me how to become faster with my blocking, closing the holes in my block, pressing over faster, having a faster arm swing, getting there, coming off, transitioning, close the block, cover,” Rhodes said.

Not only does Malcom assist Johnson-Lynch on the court, but she also assists in building the future of Iowa State’s program.

This season, Iowa State has benefitted from the play of its freshman. Malcom, the main recruiter, lured in those playmakers.

Malcom snagged commitments from freshmen Piper Mauck, Meegan Hart, Avery Rhodes and Izzy Enna, ranking the Cyclone recruiting class at No. 17, according to PrepVolleyball.com’s class of 2017 rankings.

The high-ranking class correlates to the frequency that Malcom goes out and recruits.

“I’m the main recruiter, so I go out about three weekends a month,” Malcom said. “Christy’s great as a head coach about wanting to go out, so she probably goes out at least twice a month.”

Malcom has the luxury of including her own experiences in an Iowa State uniform when she speaks to recruits.

After being on Johnson-Lynch’s roster for three seasons, Malcom also understands what playing under Johnson-Lynch consists of.

“I think it’s a big [recruiting] tool [that I played here],” Malcom said. “I’m able to talk about the coaching staff because it’s the same staff as when I played. I can share insight of how much I loved it when I played here.”

Malcom’s playing career is over, but that doesn’t mean the former blocker won’t take a hands-on approach at coaching.

In the past two seasons, Malcom has competed against Iowa State’s roster in the Cardinal and Gold Scrimmage.

“It’s always just a good time to come out here,” Malcom said. “I’m not as active as I was back then, so I had to take some more breathers, but it’s always fun playing in Hilton whether you’re a coach or player.”

That hands-on approach has made a difference in the Cyclones’ blocking. The weakness has turned into a strength with Iowa State ranking seventh in blocks per set nationally.

In 2007, Malcom played one of the biggest roles in Iowa State’s blocking success. Ten years later, Malcom still remains an influential piece in the Cyclone’s blocking success.