Long distances are nothing new to Amanda Bailey.
The first-year Central Valley volleyball coach traveled far to coach the Lady Bears, having coached teams in Mississippi and on the Florida Panhandle before heading to the Pacific Northwest.
And in her dozen seasons as a head high school volleyball coach, her teams traveled far as well.
In 10 seasons at Washington High School in Pensacola, Fla., Bailey’s teams played in eight regional tournaments and captured five consecutive District 1-4A championships.
In two seasons at Ocean Springs, Miss., her teams were a collective 49-17 and reached the District III state championship game both seasons.
“In my 10 years on the Florida Panhandle, I would have to say that the first five years set up the success we had in the last five years,” Bailey said. “There wasn’t a whole lot to work with there at first. There wasn’t a club volleyball program there to develop players. We had to start from scratch.”
That’s not the case at Central Valley, where the team reached the playoffs for the first time in school history a year ago. Compared to her first assignment, it’s as if Bailey and the Bears are starting out halfway down the road.
“Yeah, it’s like a five-year head start,” she said with a laugh. “Even the young girls, the freshmen and sophomores – a lot of them have played a lot of club volleyball and they have a lot of experience already.”
When it comes to volleyball skills, she said, she’s pleased.
“I’m impressed by how well these girls are hitting – their skills are solid,” she said. “With some of the girls, I’ve tweaked their technique a little and they’ve responded really well. With some of the older girls, they’ve wanted to understand why I was asking them to change how they’ve been doing things for a long time and, once I did that, they were right on board. That’s a good thing.”
Bailey said the fact that everyone in the program started the season with a clean slate, too, has been a good thing. The coach and players are busy learning about each other from scratch with no prejudgment.
The coach has a steep learning curve as she prepares for the start of the Greater Spokane League season.
“I have no idea what to expect from any of the teams we’re going to face,” she said. “Luckily we have some open dates early in the season so I’m hoping I can get a look at some of our competition.”
Still, there will be a familiar face on the other side of the net at least once this season.
Gonzaga Prep’s first year coach is Jill Benson, who coached just down the road from Bailey’s Washington High in Florida.
“I don’t know Jill personally, but I do know her school,” Bailey said. “She was 20 miles down the road from us and we played them.”
The Lady Bears start their season today at the Freeman High Rip-A-Shot tournament.
At East Valley, coach Darin Wold has surrounded himself with family and has retired the T-shirt his wife, Kim, made for him for whenever his Knights had to face West Valley.
“When I first got here my youngest (Courtney) was still playing at West Valley,” he laughed. “My wife made me a special shirt – two shirts cut in half and sewn together, really. On one side it said ‘Dad’ and on the other it said ‘Coach.’ I even had to warn our (EV) cheerleaders that I would be applauding for our opponents whenever we played them.”
The Wolds have been heavily involved on the club volleyball scene for a long time, and all three daughters, Alyssa, Bailey and Courtney, had standout careers at West Valley. The whole family has helped out with the East Valley program, with Bailey serving as an assistant coach.
Still, the program is continuing to shrink.
“I think all of our programs are seeing the numbers go down and I know we’re concerned about it,” Wold said. “At the same time, we’re seeing some good talent come in and we’re encouraging them to get as much experience as they can.”