“Nice dig, Haedyn!”
There’s nothing out of the ordinary for a player to hear words of support from their coach after making a valuable play. It just takes on extra meaning for an athlete like Haedyn Rhoades, playing in her final high school game, to hear that from her volleyball, and life, coach.
As she was for four years at Douglas High School, her coach was her mother, Angela Rhoades. Three weeks ago, the Wyoming Coaches Association announced their rosters for the North-South All-Star games.
Haedyn was the only player from Douglas, while Angela was tabbed as the coach for South and Melissa Hoopman was named one of her assistants. After countless hours together on the court, this would be the last time Angela and Haedyn were together as player and coach in an official game.
The North-South All-Star games were held on July 20 at Casper College. Long before the game was actually held, and before the players were selected, Angela was chosen to lead the South in the game.
“I was pretty excited ’cause I knew that Haedyn had a shot to make it, so I thought it’d be fun to coach her one last time,” she said.
Their styles are mostly antithetical. As a coach, Angela is relatively stoic, saving her bursts of exuberance for highlight plays and set-winning points.
Haedyn, on the other hand, is a flash of lightning. She’s anywhere and everywhere on the court, the first to leap in celebration with a teammate after a point or to bring together the team for a huddle after losing a point. On the bench, she was a leader in morale.
Whether it was jumping up to celebrate a teammate or busting out a dance move to entertain them during a musical interlude, Haedyn was a ball of energy.
While Angela admitted that she can, occasionally, be tougher on Haedyn than other players on her team, that doesn’t change how she treats the team as a whole during games.
Angela said, “When she’s playing, she’s just one of my players, she’s just one of those kids that’s out there playing ball.”
After coaching for over 20 years without her daughter, having Haedyn on the team was the change. Now, she’ll be back to the way it was before, and has been for a majority of her time as a coach. Continuing to coach will also help her work through the new normal as a mother.
Angela said, “I think it’s going to help me not feel that empty nest by having all these kids I’ll still coach.”
Her playing in the game was emblematic of the way Haedyn has, and will have to, grow as a volleyball player. She was exclusively an outside hitter in high school, but during the all-star event got to play libero and setter.
The team was stacked with outside hitters, letting Haedyn move around and experiment with the positions she’s been hoping to try for quite a while.
“I got to set for the first time ever and it was so much fun,” she said.
Playing two sets as a libero was a test for what comes next. In college, Haedyn is expecting to put in time as a libero when she joins the Black Hills State volleyball team in the fall. On the court, the South was able to take the 3-2 win in five sets.
The fourth set was the third for the South, clinching the team win. It was the longest of the day, with the South eventually winning it with a final of 29-27. The final point, the one that clinched the team win, came on a drop shot from Haedyn. Even with one more set to play, both Rhoades’ made sure to relish their moment together.
“After we won the fourth set I gave her a hug,” Haedyn said. “She’s been coaching me since I was tiny and this is it, but it was great to go out like that.”
This was another opportunity for Haedyn, and the rest of the all-stars, to lean back on the sports they’ve dedicated so much of their lives to. She’s continuing to play in college, but for a majority of the players, this was their last time playing organized volleyball.
Even though they were only together for one week in preparation for the game, the bonds of friendship made in Casper will carry on. Long time opponents worked together for the first, and last time.
Just because Angela won’t be coaching her daughter doesn’t mean she won’t offer up advice and help when she can. Haedyn grew up at volleyball practices with her mom, and for the first time, she’ll play without her biggest supporter there on the sideline with her.
Their relationship as a player and her coach is now entirely in the rear-view mirror, but the bond of a mother and daughter will last forever — even with Haedyn 200 miles north in South Dakota.
Haedyn said, “If I’m ever struggling, she’s a call away.”