Port Townsend High School has started their volleyball season 1-1. They were swept by North Kitsap but came back two nights later to upset rival Sequim in three sets. Port Townsend coach Hawkins said great rallies and team enthusiasm helped secure the upset.
This may not be on your radar as a volleyball fan or coach, but maybe it should be. Winning is a great feeling. It drives coaches, athletes, parents and we as coaches pore over the trappings of those that show a propensity for success and winning often.
But Coach Hawkins deserves our attention too despite that fact that she’s won three matches in the last four seasons. She deserves our attention not because she is coaching a winning program but trying to resurrect a losing one.
She deserves our attention because this basketball and volleyball player in high school and college has a birth certificate that verifies that her given first name is Nettie!
“My name Nettie isn't short for anything, like I am usually asked.” She says smiling. “I had athletic parents for sure, but nothing about that helped in the decision to name me Nettie! I guess it's just a fantastic coincidence, and an old family name.”
Nettie’s Port Townsend Redskins have started their season off at 1-1 but there is much to be excited about. The history of PT Volleyball isn’t storied. “Volleyball at PTHS has always been a sport that people in our community enjoy coming to watch and learn because there are so many amazing aspects of volleyball.” Nettie explains. “There have been a few years a while back where they went to state, but never placed, as well as made it to districts but no further. When I took over the program in 2008, the previous two years they had two different coaches, who only happened to step in because no one else was interested.”
After a successful college career in both basketball and volleyball, Hawkins came back home to Port Townsend. “When I first moved back home in March and saw the job opening I couldn't have moved more quickly to apply, and that next August we started the season. I was nervous to be taking over a weak program as a 23 year old as head coach. It certainly was a challenge, but nothing I couldn't learn along the way.”
Situated at the extreme northeastern end of the Olympic Peninsula in Washington, Port Townsend is a town of barely 9,000 people and is in an area less than 10 square miles. (To point, the Greater Phoenix area is over 2,000 square miles) PTHS is one of the smallest 1A schools in all of Washington but they play in a league of 2A and 3A schools. Their geographic location and the transportation budget of the school dictate the Redskin’s league and schedule. “It is very frustrating, but at the same time I think it has made my girls stronger playing against larger schools. I take the talent that shows up on the first day of practice where the big schools get to pick and choose.” Nettie says.
Some high schools that our Arizona athletes play for will cut 20-30 or more girls just on their freshman teams. Hawkins dreams of having issues like that. “Coaching at a small school has so many positives,” she says smiling broadly, “But the one big negative is the lack of students and athletes. On a good year I have 25 girls turn out but on a bad year I might only get 12 to try out; enough for one team. During volleyball season I also have to compete with girl’s soccer, swimming, cheer leading, and cross country. The girls that would like to play on one or more of those have to choose and some sports are more affected then others. There are also very few athletes that just play one sport. Most of them are 3 sport athletes, so volleyball might not be their number one focus.”
She shakes her head, “Some years it has been a challenge even courting two teams, but we make due.” A few of her players have played club ball, but being multi sport athletes makes that tough as well. “We also don't have very many opportunities for playing club in the off season. They have to travel about an hour or more if they want to continue to play.” Nettie says.
As you can read, Coach Hawkins, who with her husband is expecting her first child in December, isn’t one to make excuses and doesn’t allow that of her players either. “My first 3 years we were winless, and I would always question if this was something I wanted to continue doing. But at that point I had given up on my personal feelings towards a losing record and realized that these kids and this program need me and I won't give up until it has been turned around.” Nettie declares.
“I teach my teams to love the game as much as I do and to respect everyone around them, and of course sportsmanship.” Hawkins says. “Each year will be better then the last and slowly but surely we will have a thriving volleyball program.”
Coach Nettie Hawkins reflects on her playing days in college and has always loved the passion and level of competition, the things she continues to bring to her teams. “I love to educate my players about my great experiences; on how much more fun the game is when you love everything about it and are twice as competitive. We compete everyday in practice and games and the next day we talk about it! I think constant communication about the sport, whether it's positive or negative, in the end will make them not only better players but better all around people.”
Coach Hawkins overall record as the coach of Port Townsend High School is 3 wins in four years, all of them coming last season. The team is already 1-1 this season. If you want to follow the Redskins, click here.
Thank you Nettie, from all of us Coaches.