Braaten’s journey: Trinity coach brings international flavor to volleyball courtRayma Braaten loves and respects the game that has given her family a lifetime of memories.
By: Royal McGregor, The Dickinson Press
Rayma Braaten loves and respects the game that has given her family a lifetime of memories.
Braaten, now in her second full season as Trinity’s head volleyball coach, wants to instill those same morals in her players.
“My whole reasoning behind coaching is because I love this sport so much and I respect it so much,” she said. “It has given so much to me and my family. I also want to impact the girls and make a difference in lives.
So far, she’s been right on key.
“She’s amazing,” Trinity senior Ali Kovash said. “She’s more than just a coach. She’s our friend when we need it. She’s always there right by our side saying that she believes in us.”
Braaten grew up in Puerto Rico, was recruited by Dave Moody to play for Dickinson State University. Her playing days ended in 2005. She became the head coach of the Titans in 2011.
She has been around successful programs and she believes the Titans are on the right track.
“I think we are sitting in a pretty good spot,” Braaten said. “Our camp last summer was pretty successful and we’re planning on doing something bigger yet. Now that I know how the school works, I can move on to do bigger things.”
Not only did Braaten play collegiality, her younger brother, Juan, played volleyball at the University of Southern California and is part of the Puerto Rico national volleyball team. During the summer, Juan came to Dickinson for a two-day camp and Rayma hopes he can come for a longer period next summer.
“It’s amazing,” she said. “I can’t tell you how change we had on our team when he came for those couple of days. I can’t imagine if I bring him here next summer for a whole week on how much that will impact the girls.”
With Rayma’s background, it’s no surprise she is a passionate coach.
“She is a very intense coach,” Trinity senior outside hitter Alyson Schieno said. “I think that’s what helps push us. She pushes us and we push ourselves even harder.”
“She really gets into it,” Trinity sophomore setter Katie Dockter added. “She’s from Puerto Rico, where volleyball is huge. She’s really trying to bring that competitive spirit to us.”
Braaten was the first to admit that her initial season with the Titans was a little tough. Now that she’s in her second season, she’s become more comfortable with her surroundings.
“It’s easier,” Braaten said. “The first year I didn’t know anything that was going on. I always have to carry the rule book with me, because the rules are totally different from when I played in college and even when I played at the high school (level). I feel like I am more prepared now and I feel way more comfortable with it.”
Not only was it tough for Braaten, but Schieno, the only player coming into the season with a wealth of varsity experience, said it was hard on everyone.
“Having a new coach was tough for all of us, because she didn’t know any of us,” Schieno said. “Now that she knows us, she’s been able to do different drills and different things to get us ready for the season.
“She’s the best coach and a really amazing person,” Schieno added with a smile.
Braaten’s toughest choice as a head coach, however, had yet to come.
The coach had already purchased tickets to go back to Puerto Rico for her class reunion when the Titans defeated Beulah in the Region 7 tournament. She booked the vacation well in advance, thinking the Class B state tournament was Nov. 8-11 and not this weekend.
The cost to exchange the ticket was around 900 dollars — money she didn’t have. She was forced to break the news to her team last Saturday that she would be unable to attend Friday and Saturday of the state tournament, though she would be able to coach the team’s first game against Linton-HMB at 11 a.m. today.
“I know she was really disappointed,” Dockter said. “We wanted her there, because she’s our head coach. We told her that we would FaceTime with her before the game to give us her pep talk.”
Braaten’s saving grace was assistant coach Anson Mullen. The first-year assistant stepped in and paid the $900 so Braaten could change her flight and leave from Minot on Sunday.
“The girls will see that she changed something in her life that was very important,” Mullen said. “It will show them that they are important and that she’s staying. I think it’s going to benefit us as a team.”
Two days after she broke the disheartening news, she went to practice on Monday to inform the team she would be with them until the end.
“We all broke into tears, because we just had a long journey together,” Kovash said. “We just really wanted her there and share that with us. We were really happy.”
Both Braaten and her team said she made the right decision.
“There were a lot of sleepless nights,” Braaten said. “There were a lot of tears, but I’m so excited that I’m going to be able to be with them until the end. It will be worth it and there was no other choice but to make it happen.”