Maroon pennants hang over the bleachers at South Kitsap High School with white numerals signifying state-playoff appearances.
None are more barren than volleyball, which displays only one number.When practice begins Aug. 26, CJ Scott will be the latest coach to attempt to sustain success at a program that only has reached state once, in 2000.
Scott, 42, who graduated in 1989 from South, said he is aware of some of the challenges his new job, which some within the high school have called the most challenging coaching position there, possesses. He said he has talked with several former coaches, including Jessica Olsen, who guided the Wolves for the last nine seasons, about those obstacles.
“It’s the same hurdle,” Scott said. “It’s making it a big deal here.”
The challenge starts with the season. While basketball attracts many of the school’s top female athletes because it is the only girls sport during the winter season, volleyball runs at the same time as cross country, soccer and swim.
“Soccer is probably the biggest sport in Port Orchard,” Scott said.
He realized that after returning to the area from Spokane, where his wife, Jennifer, coached for five years at Central Valley High School.
“That’s what surprised us after we coached in Spokane, which is bonkers about volleyball,” he said.
Scott, who previously coached South’s boys swim from 1994-98 before leaving to earn his master’s degree from Heritage College, has some ideas on how to increase the popularity of the sport locally. A physical education teacher at Sidney Glen Elementary, Scott thinks students at that level need to be exposed to the sport to cultivate interest in it.
“Volleyball is different in our district from getting girls involved early,” he said. “You’ve got girls playing so many different sports.”
Just not volleyball.
Similar to other sports at the high school, the volleyball program runs a four-day summer program targeted toward youths. But Scott said that is not enough. He wants to network with the other physical education teachers at the elementary schools in the district to create volleyball clinics. Scott eventually hopes to begin some recreation leagues for youths, as well.
In an era where specializing in one sport increasingly is popular, Scott said exposing athletes to the sport at a young age is imperative. Otherwise, he said they might become invested in other activities without knowing about the sport.
After all, volleyball pretty much was an afterthought for Scott until he met his wife while studying at Eastern Washington University. Scott swam and ran cross country at South.
“Like most guys, I thought it was a girly sport,” he said. “But after I got involved, I had a blast.”
The Scotts played in several “high-level tournaments” together throughout the years. Now after coaching Cedar Heights Junior High’s boys basketball team last season, he is excited about coaching volleyball again.
“I feel pretty confident in my knowledge of the sport,” Scott said. “Now I just need to apply it.”
He will have a familiar voice from the previous staff to assist him through the transition — Brittany Stepper. A 2010 South graduate, Stepper was a standout middle blocker for the Wolves. Scott said the team, which held its team camp this summer at Washington State University, also will add a C team with the addition of freshmen competing in all sports at the high school.
“It will be great to have that extra year to develop them,” Scott said.
After being hired in early May, Scott will have experienced about a four-month wait before his first regular-season match as coach. Even though tryouts have not started, he is ready to guide the Wolves, who finished 8-8 overall and were 5-7 in Class 4A Narrows League play last year, against other schools.
“There comes a point where you’re ready to go,” Scott said.