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Family connection

A tough sell to join her big sister coach, Nirelle Hampton is glad she said "yes."

Courtesy Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Maybe the best player assistant volleyball coach Linda Hampton ever signed was also the one she had the hardest time recruiting.

Before the 2005 season, Hampton knew she wanted to sign her youngest sister, Nirelle, but making sure TCU really was a fit for Nirelle was a key. Nirelle was also highly sought by Pac-10 school Washington.

"You want to keep their best interest as a person in mind," Linda said. "Not just say, 'Hey, come here because I said so.' There was a lot of discussion about, 'What's best for you?'

"I had to take myself away from the personal side of it and not get too personally involved in it."
When Nirelle decided to sign with the Frogs, it was a "relief," Linda said.

Nirelle, now a senior setter for the Horned Frogs, quickly made her mark and made teammates realize she was there not just because of her sister.

Nirelle has started nearly every match of her career -- 126 -- and is the all-time TCU career leader in assists (4,808), aces (159) and games played (464). She's also is second in assists per game (10.36).

"For any player, there's a huge transition that happens," Linda said. "She's been able to grow as far as being a smart player and a leader. She's been able to expand her mind and her knowledge of the game."

Nirelle and Linda knew their coach-player relationship would work out because Linda was Nirelle's head coach in seventh, eighth and ninth grades when Nirelle was on the varsity volleyball team at P.K. Yonge Developmental Research School in Gainesville, Fla.

The first year Linda was Nirelle's coach was hard on Nirelle, who is 10 years younger.

"I remember getting mad my first year because I remember thinking Linda was super hard on me," Nirelle said. "She kind of had to be to set that boundary."

The next year they won a state championship together.

It wasn't long before they formed a mutual respect.

"She works hard, and I don't think anyone ever questions her work ethic or her desire to be on the floor," said Linda, who plays a "big sister" role to the entire team.

After the Frogs' last game this season, Nirelle and Linda will go back to quoting Jim Carrey movie lines and mimicking dance moves to Michael Jackson music videos, just like sisters do.

"The chapter is ending, and it will be nice to see her move on, and it'll be exciting to see what her next step is," Linda said. "But it will be bittersweet."

Nirelle already has hinted at recruiting Linda's help if she tries to continue her volleyball career, though.  

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