Imagine you’ve been a volleyball coach for over 20 years. Would you most remember the state championships, the tournament titles or nail-biting victories?
For Angela Rhoades and Melissa Hoopman, the answer is much more simple and touching – their relationships with the players.
Rhoades and Hoopman are both English teachers at Douglas High School, where they’ve also coached for 15 years. Before moving to Douglas, the two teachers coached together in Chadron for five years, and Rhoades coached for even a few years before that.
Now, they’ve both chosen to hang up their whistles so that they have more opportunities to watch their college-aged daughters’ volleyball games.
“It just kind of hit us that we weren’t going to get this (time) back,” Rhoades said. “Once it’s gone, it’s gone.”
Rhoades was the Bearcats head volleyball coach while Hoopman was the junior varsity coach. During their careers, the Lady Cats placed in the top four at state every year since 2010. The team won state in 2014 and 2017.
Even with this impressive record, the two agree what they’ll most remember the kids rather than the team’s success.
“We look back at all those posters on the wall and think about those kids,” Rhoades said. “All those times on the bus with them, in practice. Gosh, one year we had a wrestling match with a couple kids on the way back from state. Just silly little things like that. I couldn’t tell you the scores of the games.”
And those connections with players didn’t stop after they graduated.
“We’ve been to a lot of our players’ weddings, we’ve met their children,” Rhoades said.
And, as she said with a chuckle, they’ve even coached against previous players who went on to coach themselves.
The two said they cherished the opportunity to teach lessons while on the court.
“Life lessons always come through in sports,” Hoopman said. “Everything from showing up on time and putting in the work to playing for each other, learning to handle the good and the bad with poise.”
And while the two have worked together on the court and in the class for two decades, they’ve also been inseparable outside of coaching and teaching.
“We’re almost like sisters more than anything at this point,” Rhoades remarked.
And this extended to their families too, as the teachers explained all their kids grew up together and are like cousins to each other.
While the two don’t have hard plans to return to Douglas coaching, they’re not completely done with the sport.
They intend to coach at various volleyball camps this summer.
And while the coaches will definitely stay retired until their daughters graduate college, it’s not out of the realm of possibility.
“I would never say that we’ll never coach again if someone wanted us to,” Rhoades said.
Plus, Hoopman added with a smile, at least they still get to build relationships with students in their classrooms.