Sports

Falcon volleyball assistant returns to home team

Mandy Jones, head volleyball coach for South Whidbey High School, speaks with the varsity team during a recent practice. She hired Amanda Spalding, a former player from her first year as the head coach, to lead the C-team.  - Ben Watanabe / The Record
Mandy Jones, head volleyball coach for South Whidbey High School, speaks with the varsity team during a recent practice. She hired Amanda Spalding, a former player from her first year as the head coach, to lead the C-team.
— image credit: Ben Watanabe / The Record

There’s a new coach leading the up-and-coming Falcon volleyball players.

Her feet are plenty familiar on the court at South Whidbey High School’s Erickson Gym. After all, Amanda Spalding spent three years with the team, including her senior season when Mandy Jones took over as volleyball varsity head coach.

“I remember Amanda being a really great defensive player,” Jones said.

“Being able to have a former player come back and coach with you and remember some things you taught them when they played, it’s a great experience and a great feeling.”

Spalding is in charge of about 10 girls on the C-team, the first rung on volleyball’s three-team ladder. The ranks will fluctuate over the course of the season as some girls move between varsity, junior varsity and C-team. South Whidbey volleyball saw 34 girls try out for the team this season, and funds were available for a coach stipend for the C-team. Without the stipend, Jones faced the possibility of cutting a dozen or so players.

“There’s a lot of young, good talent in that freshman class,” Jones said. “That would have been a tough decision.”

This year, 14 freshmen came out for Jones’ volleyball squad, and for good reason. Falcon volleyball teams have made the district playoffs each of the past three seasons, two of them in the 2A classification and last season as a 1A program. Keeping as many players as Jones can is a major goal every year, with the idea that bringing an entire team from ninth grade to its senior year gives Jones a veteran-laden squad.

“That’s always a worry as a coach, with cuts; if you cut girls if they’ll try out again the next year,” Jones said.

That’s why Jones sought out Spalding. Back in spring, Jones asked her if she would lead the C-team. At the time, Spalding declined. About a month before the season began Aug. 26, Jones asked her again, and Spalding agreed that time.

As a Falcon senior in 2008, Spalding returned to volleyball after not playing her junior season. That was Jones’ first year as a head coach, and she recalled being nervous at first and a bit too animated at times with the girls.

“I don’t think I’m as hard as I was,” Jones said. “I don’t throw my clipboard nearly as much as I used to.”

Spalding was the Falcons’ libero, a defensive specialist in charge of keeping the ball in the play, digging for the ball and returning serves.

After a recent practice, Spalding remained at the high school with one of her players, waiting with her to be picked up. That kind of leadership spoke volumes to Jones, who already sees the players responding to Spalding’s dedication — a lesson Jones also learned her first year, the same year she coached Spalding.

“Finding that fine line of coaching and being their friend, in a sense,” said Jones of what the most important coaching lesson she learned in 2008. “In the end, you have to be their coach and teach them those life lessons.”

 

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