When the Hotchkiss volleyball team opens the season this Thursday at Ouray, it'll have a new head coach. Peter Nethington replaces two-year head coach Taralee Williams. He brings some 30 years of volleyball experience to the program.
Nethington, who has lived in Delta County with his family since 2000, grew up in southern California where volleyball "is kind of one of those birthright things." His interest in the sport began when one of his two older brothers played volleyball in high school. He remembers as a kid watching matches on TV and being fascinated with the sport. In 1984, the Summer Olympics were held in southern California, and volleyball came to Long Beach. He and his brothers watched on TV as the US Olympic team defeated Brazil to win the gold medal. He was in sixth grade at the time, but knew right away that's want he wanted to do in life.
After high school he played at Long Beach City College and Hope International University, and coached high school boys volleyball. Since moving to Delta County he has been involved in adult league volleyball, and assisted the junior varsity team at Cedaredge High School and at Delta middle and high schools.
This is his first head coaching job since moving to Delta County. He was offered the coaching position last year, but declined so he could follow his daughter's volleyball season at Delta High School. This year, everything just came together, and Nethington was also hired to teach social studies at HHS.
With no seniors on last year's roster, the entire varsity team returns to the court this season, although one senior will be out for much of the season due to an injury. "They're a great group of kids," he said. "I think they're going to be really solid together." While the roster isn't big in numbers, that's OK, he said. Lower numbers mean more one-on-one time with individual players, and more time for them on the court.
He would like to build a team where players are comfortable just about anywhere on the court, because "having players with versatility is valuable to any team."
During his career, said Nethington, he didn't stay in one position. He played at outside blocker early on, then at middle blocker/hitter, opposite setter, and setter. Seeing the game from multiple positions helps him to see not only where his players fit best on the court this year, but also where they might fit best the next year after the seniors are gone and the year after that.
Nethington said he feels lucky to have played volleyball. While he didn't get to the major leagues, his goal was to play in college, and he succeeded. Volleyball also took him around the world, to Central and South America and Africa, and even to Victoria Falls in Zambia. "Because I played volleyball I got to do those things," he said.
He views volleyball as "a microcosm of life," and believes that, as it did for him, it can lead his players to great things. He sees his job as teaching athletes not only to be better players now, but to be better people in the future. High school girls aren't just playing for themselves, he said. They're playing for the younger girls who come to the games and say, "I can do that. I'm going to do that when I get to be that age."
Volleyball can affect the way players treat people, react to hardships and celebrate success in the future, he said. "It's so much more important than playing volleyball. How you relate to each other here is how you relate to people out there... The way you treat teammates is the way you'll treat the people in your life."
Coaching is about creating a cycle of success. As with football and baseball and other sports, "In a town this small, it means a lot to people," he said. When players return in later years, they can say with pride, "I played at that school."
That's how his previous coaches taught him, he said. The program these girls are building now is for those little girls who are saying, "I want to play volleyball when I grow up. And when they get here they can thank these girls."