Future is bright for Skyline volleyball despite the agony of defeatNov 23, 2021 04:55PM ● By Daniel Olsen
Junior Kira Little leaps to touch the ball past her opponent. (Justin Adams/City Journals)
By Daniel Olsen | [email protected]
The Skyline Eagles girls volleyball team really felt this was their year. They experimented and achieved brilliant results. That included a region title and a three seed in the state playoffs. However, it came to a halt when they were defeated by Timpview in the quarterfinals.
“This season is going to hurt badly and sting for a very long time,” coach Mondo Begay said. “These kids are the first round of changing my culture.”
Part of that culture involved bringing fun into practice. While it takes hard work to perfect a craft, Begay found that with this generation it is important to let high school kids enjoy themselves. He gave them the freedom to govern their own workouts on Fridays without an organized practice. By doing this, they were able to go to football games on Fridays and have fun with their friends.
“Our whole team bought in on what we wanted to do, which was to compete for a state title,” senior leader Mia Liddiard said. “We ended up coming up a bit short. All of us decided this goal at the beginning of the year and committed to wanting to do that.”
They certainly got close. With only two losses all season, they had a favorable seed. It just didn’t play out the way they expected.
“It stings because we had every shot,” Begay said. “I learn to reflect on what went wrong. I should have pushed them hard earlier. That’s on me. Two weeks earlier is when I should have pushed them.”
Coaching is different in this new generation compared to how high school kids might have been coached in the past said Begay. There is a constant challenge to keep things balanced between having fun and being disciplined in preparation.
“We were raised to be hard on kids,” Begay said. “This generation needs balance. We just need to push them earlier. This loss with the best team in the state is on me.”
Along with the challenge of coaching is the added stress that coaches get from other people supporting the team. Whether that is from parents, administration or fans, that wears on a coach.
“I don’t think that parents understand the emotional work and stress that coaches go through,” Begay said. “Coaches worry about their kids. They stress about how to make the team happy and themselves happy in real life.”
That stress can add up when looking at it by the numbers. Families make up a big part of the team especially when they want to be heavily involved.
“The hardest part about coaching right now is I have 43 kids on the whole team,” Begay said. “But I also have between 120-140 additional people I have to manage including families.”
Because of this, turnover can be quite high in the coaching industry. Volleyball is no stranger to this trend either.
“Leeah Dahle, the coach of the year in our region, quit at Olympus this year,” Begay said. “She was here for two years. She is a great coach. Such a high turnover rate. There is a 30% turnover rate for high school volleyball coaches every year. I’m here for the long haul. I love Skyline and will be there as long as they will want me.”
There can only be one champion, and it wasn’t Skyline despite an amazing regular season that won them the region championship.
“We played an amazing Timpview team in the playoffs,” Begay said. “They were phenomenal. We should have played them in the finals. We traded point for point.”
It will be tough next year with talented athletes graduating and going on to play at the NCAA level. Liddiard will be playing for Northern Colorado. Her teammate, Olivia Gloeckner, will be playing for the University of Idaho in the same Big Sky conference.
“I think the coaches this year did a great job of getting us to believe in ourselves that we can do it,” Liddiard said. “Even girls I don’t hang out with outside of school become my friends in volleyball. It was a good culture. It was a positive experience that was the cherry on top for my senior year.”