Mel Coutts is accustomed to breaking new ground. One of the youngest players to win a volleyball cap for Scotland, she went on to captain England.
At 45, she remains one of the most influential players in the Scottish League with City of Edinburgh but she has finally called a halt to her international indoor career (though she will continue to play for Scotland on the beach).
Her career has taken a new turn after she was named last week as coach to the Scotland women’s team, the first female to take on the role.
She will work closely with Su Ragazzi’s Vince Krawczyk, Scotland’s most successful club coach, who will oversee the national team programme and help integrate the junior and senior squads.
Solid foundations have been laid by Craig Faill, who guided the senior team to the silver medal at this year’s European Championships Small Nations Division, before resigning as head coach earlier this year.
Coutts and Krawczyk have been charged with taking the team to the next level, to compete with the lower middle order in Europe, within four years.
The pair do not yet know when Scotland’s next match will be but expect to find out more this weekend when it is anticipated the European Confederation will map out the competitive schedule for 2016.
“I have to pull a team together and a programme together and we’re going to get going in January,” Coutts outlined.
“There is going to be a focus on conditioning. That’s one thing we can control and make a difference and we’re just looking at how we approach that and how we can best measure it.
“Our first matches are likely to be either May or September. That will impact on our training programme – obviously. If it’s in May, we’ll have to intensify the programme, if it’s September, we have a bit longer but we’ll need to train through the summer.”
Coutts has worked under a number of top-quality coaches during her playing career, including Great Britain Olympic coach Audrey Cooper, and will use much of that knowledge to build her own credentials.
Nick Moody, her former City of Edinburgh club coach, is one of the most respected figures in the British game and Coutts will call upon his expertise, even though he is now based down south and no longer working in the Scottish game.
“Whoever he coaches, no matter what level they are at, he will always make improvements to their game,” she pointed out.
“He works on their movement, positioning, attitude and commitment and he doesn’t have any superstars, everyone is treated like a player who needs to get better.
“He also has exceptional technical knowledge and he works a lot on conditioning and I’m going to tap into it. It’s not just the physical improvement but he’s done a lot of work on how it relates to volleyball specifically.”
Coutts, who partnered GB Olympic captain Lynne Beattie to the fourth round of the European Continental Beach Cup earlier this year, admits it will be a challenge over the next few months dealing with her playing and coaching commitments.
She is off to Tenerife to a beach camp next month, has an indoor beach competition in Copenhagen in February and Scotland is hosting the European Small Nations Beach Championships in June.
But the challenge of taking on coaching Scotland’s indoor team was too tempting to turn down.
“I’ve never worked with Vince before but I think it will be a really good partnership,” she concluded, “It’ll be a balancing act fitting in my training with my duties as a national coach but I think it will work fine.”