A couple of years ago, the Satanta Junior High Indians volleyball team was short on players. Traditionally, sixth graders play recreational volleyball, but that year the school’s team, coached by Joyce Apsley, allowed sixth graders to play for the junior high team instead, Apsley said.
They went on to place in their league tournament that year, then in seventh grade, then in eighth grade.
As that group of sixth-graders moved from eighth grade into their freshmen years at Satanta High School, Apsley also moved up to help coach the high school team, coaching many of them again.
This year, after a rough year for the varsity team, Apsley and that group again work together, Apsley said.
This will be her first year as head coach, though she has been teaching math and coaching in some capacity for 24 years, she said. Those sixth-graders are now sophomores, and their class is just one element that has Apsley, as a volleyball coach, excited.
The then-eighth graders those sixth-graders shared the court with in junior high are now seniors on this Indians team.
“We return almost everybody, and we have picked up one junior that got hurt at the first tournament, and she had knee surgery last winter, and she is back and healthy,” Apsley said.
The combination of the two could be very fun for Satanta fans. This year’s sophomore class is good, but their relationship with the seniors is also established, Apsley said.
"Those now-seniors were eighth-graders when those sixth-graders came in, so they have already established a pretty good relationship slash leadership role with this group,” Apsley said. “There's only one senior that wasn't here as an eighth grader.“
As for this year’s sophomores, they, like the seniors, are experienced.
“I just really think we're going to really start to see the benefit of having those sixth graders play three years of junior high ball instead of the traditional rec-ball that they play,” Apsley said.
Her relationship with the girls on the team, in both the senior and sophomore classes, also makes her excited for that the season could hold, Apsley said.
“I just think we really have the opportunity to be pretty successful this year,” Apsley said.
This group is of girls are dedicated to improving, Apsley said.
"That group of girls, they work harder than anybody I've ever coached,” Apsley said. “They never miss practice, and they're good athletes."
Three of them competed as freshmen on the 4X100 relay team at the State Track meet last year.
That doesn’t mean the team has it all together just yet. Chemistry is there, but the team last year didn’t find a lot of success on the court, so Apsley said she is working to teach them to “win without boasting, and lose without making excuses,” which is her coaching philosophy.
"I'm very adamant that when you lose, you don't point fingers, you don't make excuses, you just go and prepare to fix it for the next time, and that's kind of the mentality that I want to bring to them, because they have the talent and they have the skills,” Apsley said. “What they don't have is that mental aspect to know how to fix it when they make a mistake."
That has been an area of emphasis for her, she said. She has told them not to apologize for making a bad pass in practice, but rather to say they will make the next one good, replacing the negative with the positive.
With chemistry strong between the seniors and sophomores on the team, Apsley said she just has to get them over the hump from getting down after losing and get back to being used to winning.