Not bad for ‘just a high school volleyball coach’
Coronado’s Joan Powell to be inducted into Colorado Springs Hall of Fame Oct. 30
Joan Powell could have been talking about her own record - 28 years as a volleyball coach at Coronado High School, reaching the state's final eight half of those years, winning state titles three times and becoming one of just five coaches in Colorado to win more than 400 games.
Actually, Powell's “wow” was in response to being selected to the Colorado Springs Hall of Fame this fall at the same time as Bob Mathias, the two-time Olympic decathlon champion (and later the first director of the Colorado Springs Olympic Training Center).
“It's quite an honor,” she said of the coincidence. “I'm just a high school volleyball coach.”
She's not even sure if she'll be able to go to the World Arena Oct. 30, when the induction ceremony will be held. As it happens, that Saturday night is in the midst of the district volleyball playoff matches, and Powell can't predict where or when her team will be playing. “I might not be in town,” she said.
The matter-of-fact certainty that she needs to be with her team ahead of her own accolades may have something to do with the success she's achieved over the years. But Powell, in typically humble manner, prefers to deflect the credit to helpful assistants, hard-working players and a strong program tradition of “high expectations.”
“I just believe our tradition has a lot to do with it,” she said. “We don't recruit, so we get the kids we get.” This means not as many tall players in a sport where height tends to govern who rules the net. To counteract this deficiency, “We play good defense,” she said. “Our players think of themselves as David vs. Goliath. They just believe in it.”
Asked what it takes for her athletes to attain that belief, Powell smiled. “I have to believe it first.”
But again, it's not about herself. She stressed the importance of cultivating good leaders, who, in turn, pass along the “buy-in,” as she called it, to the younger players. “They tell them they have a responsibility to the team, and all this comes with it. You can't be selfish,” she said.
Certainly, nothing in Powell's collegiate playing career at Arizona State University would have encouraged selfishness. In those days, female volleyball athletes did not receive scholarships. She can laugh about it now. “The year after I left was when the scholarships started,” she said. “My dad was not happy.”
Powell started her coaching career in 1975, heading the Palmer High School team while working as a substitute teacher. The next year she came to Coronado, where she's been ever since. The first few seasons she coached both the varsity and JV teams, but in more recent years she has been able to have paid assistants.
She's also been blessed with volunteers - and their backgrounds are a sure indication that the Coronado volleyball “buy-in” doesn't end with a player's graduation. This year alone, she has four girls from previous teams helping out. One of them, Shelly Mitchell, is also a first-year teacher at Buena Vista Elementary.
Powell's own daughter, Ashley Powell, who graduated in 1998, apparently didn't mind too much playing for Mom. She's one of the assistant coaches.
Powell also expressed appreciation to the “great parental support” she receives. “They know their kids are going to be safe, and they know it's going to be fair,” she said.
Less well known about Powell is that she moonlights as an NCAA volleyball official, serving at the Final Four Volleyball Championships on several occasions. She said she enjoys the faster pace of the college game and understands the higher level of pressure: “The kids are paid to play, and the coaches have their jobs on the line,” she explained.
But one of the best parts, she noted, is that seeing the college game gives her ideas she can take back to her Coronado team. “I definitely pick up tips,” she said.
That's a lot of dedication after 28 years. Maybe even Bob Mathias would say, “Wow.”
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