Lynnsey (Wimmer) Machakaire accepted the head volleyball coaching job at Detroit Lakes and will be at the helm for the second time in her career when the Lakers take to the floor this coming fall.
“I didn’t think I would get the job,” she said. “I was approached before I even knew the job was opened."
Machakaire was coaching the 12U Waves team and after discussing with her husband and 12-year-old daughter about how to handle it as a family she made the decision to apply.
It was her daughter who made the decision easy.
“She said, ‘you’re happiest when you coach,’ and she was right,” said Machakaire. “Every time I get into the gym I understand it but as a working mom that doesn’t work within the school district with a six-month-old baby and as a business individual in our community I’m blessed to have the flexibility in my schedule to make coaching work but it does add an extra element to your life.”
Machakaire concentrated on volleyball during her high school career graduating from Detroit Lakes in 2000. She played under head coach Sam Gulon.
“Playing for her I probably didn’t appreciate her as much as I do now,” Machakaire said. “She worked us really hard and expected a lot out of us and in the long run it made me a better person.”
Machakaire attended Moorhead State University for two years before transferring and earning her degree in Cultural Psychology at Metropolitan State University in St. Paul.
“My goal is to help teach these kids what it takes to become successful people in society,” she said.
Machakaire started coaching volleyball at Detroit Lakes under Beth Leighton in 2008 starting with underclassmen.
“I started with ninth grade and moved wherever she needed me where I could be an asset to the program,” said Machakaire.
Jim Wood took over the program from Leighton and coached until the end of the 2014 season. Machakaire took a hiatus from the school teams but stayed involved with the Waves youth program.
In 2015, Machakaire took over as head coach under a one-year, interim contract after Wood resigned.
That job was not going to be easy after nearly all of the starting lineup graduated.
“I really only had one kid who had played on a varsity court,” said Machakaire. “Kyra Vagle was the senior, just an outstanding athlete and we had a great group of girls with the ability, we just didn’t have the belief. Volleyball is a game of minimizing mistakes and a mental game. You just have to play your hearts out and leave it all on the court.”
The 2015 Lakers overcame an 0-8 start to the season to win 11 games and pull off a first round upset victory as the No. 11 seeds in the Section 8AAA tournament before falling to No. 3 Becker in the section semifinals. Machakaire’s club gained momentum throughout the season and overcame injuries early in the year to finish off an unexpectedly successful campaign.
“The girls really put it all out there and played their hearts out,” she said. “We had an outstanding group of players and parents, as well.”
Getting through the first half of a tough schedule amidst injuries to key players was a tall task but that adversity helped the upstart Lakers really make a big turnaround in one season.
“You have to keep instilling the belief and being positive with them with constant communication,” said Machakaire. “Our goals aren’t for the beginning of the season they’re for the end of the season. They constantly wanted to be better.”
Despite a successful effort, Machakaire was not re-signed for a second season with little explanation.
“After 2015, I lost a lot of the passion,” she said. “It was hard for me to coach. Emotionally, it was a big jump to come back.”
Since the end of the 2015 season, the Lakers have had two different coaches over three seasons as DL moved from AAA play to Class AA. With Machakaire’s return, the MSHSL has moved DL back up to Class AAA where the Lakers will be one of the smaller schools in Section 8.
Machakaire returns with familiarity both of that schedule and her incoming group of seniors that she coached through the youth program.
“It's really been fun to be back in the gym with that group of kids and to see how happy they are to be back in the gym with me,” she said. “It’s been a really positive experience.”
The players are getting a fresh look at themselves as Machakaire has wiped the slate clean at summer practice by not returning players to expected positions.
“We’ll probably be a really nontraditional team,” she said. “The seniors have really stepped into their roles but we’re looking at each individual and how they can push the team forward. The girls have been open to figuring out new positions and understanding why I’m positioning them in different spots. It’s my job to put them where they need to be positionally to win games. The athletic ability, right now, is exciting.”
The girls had organized their own work to start the summer. Machakaire took over the program after being hired after the end of the 2018 school season. With open gym space Mondays and Wednesdays, the summer program has been about building trust.
“Every day I get a little tougher on them,” Machakaire said.
The hiring process of getting a full-time assistant is still ongoing with three viable candidates.
“We have three really great applicants and all three have committed to being involved even if they don’t get the assistant job,” Machakaire said. “I’m really excited to have people who are really passionate and want to be a part of the program. I feel the kids really deserve some focus, especially this group of seniors that have been through a new coach every couple years. You lose some kids from a lack of stability and I hope I bring back some stability.”
Her years of experience with the Laker youth programs and as head coach have shown the need to get kids involved at a young age to help build her program and girl’s sports at DLHS.
“I met with Rick Manke before I took over in 2015 and he talked about his program and told me you get as many kids involved as you can,” she said.
She wants to do that for not just her program but girl’s sports in general.
“One thing that we fail at, as a community, is offering sports to our elementary, especially females, and it doesn’t have to be volleyball, just introducing them to kicking a ball or throwing a ball outside of their phy ed classes...and not charging an arm and a leg, not every kid’s parents can afford to keep writing out checks so their kids can play,” she said.
“My dream would be to bring together the five female sports in the fall: volleyball, cross country, swimming and diving, soccer and tennis. Sometimes, you’ve got kids that are playing volleyball that would be a better soccer player. I believe we can come together as coaches at the elementary level. There are going to be 10 kids that everybody wants because they’re such good athletes and it’s your job as a coach to build the rapport and build the passion so they want to play for your team, but for those other kids, as coaches, we can help guide them to where they would find more success. In a community our size, you have to share kids but if you can find where they are best-suited you could help grow girl’s sports and keep more girls involved.”
Machakaire’s involvement at the youth level gives her a unique perspective on the pipeline of players coming into her program and she has already seen potential from eighth graders on up who are going to have a positive impact on Laker volleyball.
“I truly believe in the next two years you’re going to see some college-level players coming through the program,” she said.