She's arguably the greatest volleyball player in Minnesota State High School League history, but life has changed a little for Ashley Wittman Bushman over the years.
The 2010 Shakopee High School graduate is no longer dominating between the white lines of the court. She's outside them now as an assistant varsity coach at college prep school Benilde-St. Margaret's in St. Louis Park. She's also married and a mother of two young children.
"Being a mom has made me busier, which has impacted my ability to be involved in the volleyball world," said Wittman Bushman, who led the Sabers to three straight Class 3A state titles from 2007 to 2009. "Coaching high school volleyball allows me to enjoy time away from my everyday life and connects me to the sport I love.
"Connecting to passions and having activities outside of everyday family life is something that me and my husband have found to be important in our own health and well-being," Wittman Bushman added. "I find that volleyball has taught me so many skills such as patience, which is a resource I use in my everyday coaching and family life."
In her days at Shakopee, Wittman Bushman was twice named the Gatorade Minnesota Volleyball Player of the Year and was selected the National Volleyball Player of the Year in 2009, leading the Sabers to a perfect 32-0 record.
From there, she was a standout at the University of Minnesota and a two-time All-American as well as a two-time unanimous All-Big Ten selection. She finished her Gophers' career ranked sixth in career kills (1,778) and fourth in career digs (1,510).
Wittman Bushman also played professionally in Puerto Rico and has been a part of some U.S. Women's national select teams.
Winning state titles and playing high-level volleyball across the globe are memories Wittman Bushman will always cherish. But they are not the only ones she remembers, especially from her days with the Sabers.
"The memories that stick with me most are being with friends, singing and dancing on bus rides, and staying in the hotel during state tournaments," said Wittman Bushman, who now makes her home in New Hope. "Being able to have these great experiences with your close friends makes it that much more important and I will cherish these memories forever.
"I hope to be able to look back and share these memories with my kids in the future," she added.
Passing it on
Wittman Bushman has been passing on her expertise to a new generation of volleyball players at Benilde the last six years. After her playing days, she also coached at the club at level for Vital Volleyball for three years.
She's hoping one day she become a head coach of a high school program, but she's not in a rush.
"I absolutely love being a coach and working with athletes from all over the state through lessons and high school ball," Wittman Bushman said. "It definitely has helped me stay connected to the game since I am no longer playing. I have learned so much over my volleyball career and I want to be able to share my knowledge and experience with younger players.
"Being a head coach is something to aspire to. But for now, I'm happy where I am, especially since I have two young kids and I want to be present in their lives. I don’t want to miss the beautiful moments or their growth.
"I'm very excited for my kids to start exploring different sports and interests," Wittman Bushman continued. "Volleyball will always have a special place for me and in my heart. I hope one day my children will find activities and connections that give them as much excitement and passion. These are truly life changing experiences."