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Excelling in All Areas

Today’s coaches are expected to succeed in many different areas—supporting academic achievement, teaching life lessons, developing character, raising money, and of course, winning on the court or field. Excelling in even some of these areas is reason to feel proud, but hitting the mark on all of them is remarkable.

Sue Moon, Head Girls’ Volleyball Coach at North Henderson High School in Hendersonville, N.C., has built a program that does just that. Moon has posted more than 500 career wins and has a winning percentage of .837. Highly active in community service, her team has been recognized for its work in raising money for cancer research. At the same time, her players have maintained one of the highest team GPAs in the state across all sports and classifications.

In this piece, she shares advice on tapping into community resources, adjusting to changes in today’s youth, and gathering a support network.

You do a large number of activities with your team that go beyond volleyball, like having regular speakers and special programs, and your team is very successful with fundraising. How do you get the community on board and willing to contribute in so many ways?

I learned a long time ago that people want to be involved in good things that are happening in their community. You just need to ask them! And the worst that’s going to happen is that they will tell you no.

My advice is to find people with common goals and needs in the community and partner with them. For example, we have a great relationship with a fitness studio in our community called E-fitness. They help us train our kids, and they give us a reduced rate. If an athlete can’t afford it, they take care of that child.

They also help us in our service projects. We do a fundraiser called All Knight Long with them. For a 12-hour period, every hour a new group comes into their studio to do a workout, and it’s like a road race. People pay $20 and they get a t-shirt and they get to work out, and all of that money goes to our cancer fundraising event. Before the event, our girls get groups of people to fill in each time slot. We do the last time slot as a team, and then we go eat at Waffle House together, which could happen at 4 or 6 in the morning.

E-fitness does that for us, and they don’t charge us anything—not for the use of the facility, not for instructing the sessions—just because we have such a great partnership with them. I’ve found that if you ask people for help, and if you tell them what you’re doing and what the purpose is, parents and members of your community will donate their time.

Your state has recognized you with the Tony Webb Coach of the Year Award, given to coaches who make a special impact on the lives of student-athletes. How is connecting with today’s athletes different from connecting with athletes in the past?  

The biggest change I’ve seen is what kids have to deal with outside of the game. We have problems in society—the issues of drugs, bullying, violence, and crime—and they have to put these things aside. It’s really tough, and that’s why our relationships with them are so important.

I start off by emphasizing commitment. One of things I’ve seen with kids today is that they have trouble showing up every day to practice. There are so many distractions that they say, “Well, I have to go here or there, and I can’t be at practice.” So we talk about how important commitment to the program is.

They also know that they are students first, and if they are having trouble, they need to go talk to the teacher and work it out. If their grades drop, I will hold them out of practice.

I also expect them to leaders in other areas. Our girls are leaders in student council and all of the clubs. I want to see them being out there in the pep rallies and helping clean the school and doing those jobs that nobody else wants to do. It might be old school, but that’s the way I was raised and that’s the way I was coached as a player, and that’s what we put into our program.

What do you do when you need support yourself?

As a coach, I have to have mentors. Even as long as I’ve been coaching, I have to have a network of coaches I can go to when something changes or there is a problem and say, “How do you handle this?” I think all coaches need mentors no matter what, and that’s one of the best things that I’ve done for myself.

I also think you need a network of other individuals that help you. Your coaching allies can help you with the athletic part, but you also need a core group of teachers at your school who will support you in your activities, and you need parents and people in the community. You’ve got to know who you can call on for help. If I need help with a sound system, I know who I can call. When I’m doing a cancer fundraising event, I know who will support me and help me with that. I call it my crew. Know who your crew is and who will help you.