When I was in high school, Comanche did not have a volleyball team. It was only in the offseason that Leta would string the net and let us play, joining in with us, of course! I loved those days, and I really loved to play the game, probably even more than I did basketball…not that I would have told that back then, you understand!
Of course, as it tends to do, life marched on without my giving more than a very occasional thought to those old games of volleyball. For the next forty years, pieces of conversation about how Comanche ISD should offer volleyball as a sport could be heard floating in certain circles, only to die away to be raised a few years later.
And then, last year it all came to be. After years of beauty shop conversations, the Comanche Maidens were to add another sport to their schedule…volleyball!
And now, with two years in the rearview mirror, I recently sat down with current coach, Traci Pettit, to get her take on the new program.
“We’ve learned so much!” were the words with which Coach Pettit greeted me. Although she is a 20-year veteran teacher, Pettit, who is a third-year teacher in Comanche, has only this year decided to reenter the coaching arena by becoming the volleyball coach.
Of course, as with any new thing in a small town, there have been concerns about adding yet another sport to an already bulging schedule in a system with very few gyms.
“I really think a lot of it is just getting used to volleyball and, of course, so many people believed that it would hurt the basketball program. Coach Salinas and I have talked about this a lot, and neither of us believes that is the case at all. In fact, we can see that it just serves to keep the girls competitive at a time when they would not have been competing anyway.”
Obviously, any new venture is hard work, and that has certainly been the case with building a new program from scratch.
“On the varsity squad, I only had three girls who played high school ball last year. I had four new freshmen. My two juniors were my daughter, Rylie, who is a move in, and Kimberly Strickland, who had never played volleyball before.
“Half of my squad was brand new to high school volleyball, and we had a lot of learning to do. We actually started with the rules of the game: how to pass, how to serve, how to rotate…
“We started off really young and really rough. Some things didn’t work so we went back to the drawing board. We scratched everything and started over at least twice. The girls were very willing to do that because we were at that level. By the middle of the season, we had pretty much hit a rut. We had won a few games, but that was all. We had settled into our rut, which meant that district was rough on us.”
Because of the number of teams in the district as well as the number of teams who make the playoffs each season, the Comanche team actually found itself heading into round one of the volleyball playoffs, and it was actually a good thing for the Maidens.
“That was the beauty of the playoffs. I told the girls that we had absolutely nothing to lose and that nothing in the past counted. We played the best we had ever played, and some of the coaches (who saw the girls play) came to us and told us that we would have certainly won more games if we had played that well during the regular season.”
The Maidens did not win their playoff games against Jim Ned, and no one would have expected that for a second-season program.
“Jim Ned beat us. They were the better team, but they won’t be for long,” Pettit assured me. Early in the year we went to Jim Ned for a scrimmage, and we did not know how to rotate. We did not know an offense from a defense. They would just have to roll us the ball every now and then and let us serve. We went from that to almost knocking them out of the playoffs!
“I’m really excited about next year. We start our two-a-days the same time the football team does. This year when we go into two-a-days, we will get to start where everyone else does…working on the GAME, not the rules, etc. We will actually be able to work on our team, and that will be exciting. We still may not be the most skilled team out there, but we ARE going to outwork you. We will be the underdog every time we step on the court, and I like that. You can take a lot of people by surprise like that,” the coach grinned, obviously loving the challenge.
So…knowing our Texans United readers well by now, I know the question that has been hovering in your mind as you’ve read along with me. Who is Traci Pettit anyway? Right?
“This is my 20th year to teach, and seventeen of those years have also been spent coaching. My first nine years were spent in Bangs, and then I started the softball program in Ozona. I coached for three years in Brownwood, where I really learned the art of coaching volleyball under Mary Steed, my all-time favorite coach. Coaching with her gave me the confidence to become a head volleyball coach.”
From Brownwood, Traci became the girls coordinator at Tidehaven, where she was both the head volleyball coach and the head softball coach, and then Coach Pettit turned in her whistle for awhile, choosing to slow down for a bit…if you can call the life of a wife, mom, and teacher slow, that is.
For the past two years, Traci Pettit has taught math at the junior high in Comanche, and only this year has her family joined her. Eddie Pettit coaches high school football, daughter, Rylie, is a junior, and son, Jayton, is a freshman.
“My husband is a coach; I’m a coach, and we do that 24/7. There are days when I ask God why I do it, and then I go to the gym…and I KNOW.”
And here at United, we already can’t wait to see what season three holds for the Comanche Maidens!