Steamboat Springs Dana Hunter has sat on her fair share of volleyball benches and peeked her head into countless team huddles.
It’s a sport the Hayden resident loves, and one she’s been part of in a multitude of ways since she was young.
But the first serve she witnesses from one of her players in the 2014 season won’t be viewed from the Hayden Middle School sideline, where she has been serving as the Tigers’ intermediate head coach.
This fall, Hunter is getting her first taste of varsity volleyball head coaching. She’s sat on JV and varsity benches before in volunteer work, but never before as a full-time leader, and she couldn’t be more excited to lead Tigers program in a new direction after being hired by the Hayden School Board on April 16.
“I’ve always wanted to coach volleyball,” Hunter said. “When I saw the position was open, I thought, ‘You know, I’ll give it a shot and see what happens.’”
Before Hunter was a coach, she was a player, competing all four years in high school before playing another year at Brigham Young University-Idaho.
She’s even played in some city league contests after leaving college but admits that competing and coaching present their own unique challenges.
“It’s totally different playing and trying to coach it,” Hunter said. “It’s two different aspects, but I love them both.”
Hunter will replace two-year Hayden volleyball coach Christene Planansky, who compiled a 14-26 record (9-12 league). Planansky — who offered her full support to Hunter moving forward — cited a “difference of opinion with the school” as reason for her departure.
“Dana is a really good coach,” Planansky said Friday. “She’s very knowledgeable after playing in college. She knows the talent and she knows the skills.”
One of Hunter’s immediate goals is to build the Hayden program not just at the high school level, but starting in elementary and middle school. With a strong group of eighth-graders slated to enroll at the high school and start practice in August, and a roster left behind that suited three freshman and two juniors in 2013, the new coach is confident in the future.
Departing the Tigers program are current seniors and 2013 captains Becca Hoza and Olivia Zehner, as well as Belle Mazzola and Abi Velasquez, who are graduating.
“We’re really trying to make it a uniform program, so it’s not different as the players advance up,” Hunter said. “They should know what to expect, the drills and techniques, that will carry them up through high school.”
The athletic department and coaches also have worked together to organize a volleyball developmental camp, with elementary students involved and upperclassmen taking part in building that uniform Tigers program.
But first things first, Hunter is looking forward to seeing the roster she gets to work with in her inaugural varsity head coach experience. It’s a group she hopes will stay motivated and eager to avenge a string of District 5 playoff losses two years running.
“The most exciting part is being able to work with those girls,” Hunter said. “I’m trying to get them to love volleyball as much as I do, to teach them the life lessons. There is a lot of discipline involved.”
To reach Ben Ingersoll, call 970-871-4204, email bingersoll@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @BenMIngersoll