Grayson County Middle School wrapped up its first-ever season of girls volleyball with a winning record, an invitational tournament win and attendance to rival even basketball.
With strong parent interest, the Middle School began exploring the development of a team last school year. But even with site-based and administration support, a season that ended so spectacularly almost didn’t happen at all.
Finding a coach was the first hurdle to overcome. With no particular volleyball coaching expertise, social studies teacher Shane Decker stepped up to become head coach. He then proceeded to surround himself “with really good assistants”, all of whom had either some volleyball knowledge or experience through personal or family member play.
Joining him as assistant coaches for this inaugural year have been seventh grade math teachers Carla Butler and Amanda Thomas, Title I teacher Susan Higdon and Clarkson Elementary special education teacher Tim Watkins. They received further support from college assistant Kelsey Hughes, who will student teach at the middle school next fall.
With a strong focus on fundamentals, the team had an impressive first season. The eighth graders boasted a 13 - 1 - 2 record. The four-member seventh grade team played with mostly sixth graders yet finished the season 8 – 6. And since most schools don’t have a designated sixth grade team, the GCMS sixth graders took on mostly seventh grade teams, amassing quite a few victories of their own.
Decker said the highlight of the season was most likely the invitational tournament played last month at John Hardin High School, in which the eighth grade team placed first, going undefeated.
“Just to be invited in our first season was an honor,” he said, adding that “coming out of it with the win was tremendous“. The seventh grade team placed third in the tournament – quite a feat since they played without two of their regular seventh grade starters, the balance of players coming from sixth grade teammates.
The strength of this first season points to a bright future for Grayson County volleyball. Already many of the girls have aspirations beyond middle school. Several currently play on the high school team, others play on traveling teams. And college scholarships are strong possibilities as they reach the next level of play.
Decker “made a lot of phone calls and sent a lot of emails” to schedule opponents this year. But with a strong record and Green River Valley looking at the possibility of adding a volleyball conference for the 2012-13 season, scheduling should be a lot easier next year.
And while Decker doesn’t consider himself a volleyball “guru”, admitting that he had a lot to learn about the sport, he has been busy fielding calls from other schools looking for guidance in starting their own teams.
In the case of GCMS, strong parent involvement and community support provided “a demand and an interest”, he said. “Our administration and our board has been wonderful in putting this together. They have been more than willing to do whatever needed to be done.”