When the Douglas High School volleyball team scores a point, Melissa Hoopman bolts off the bench time and time again.
She pumps her fists in elation.
When daughter Madee Hoopman dropped to her knees in disbelief after winning a five-set 3A State Championship in 2017, she was there. She lifted her emotional daughter back up to her feet to bawl into her shoulder as a whirlwind of celebration engulfed the team.
Melissa is a mother, coach and the Lady Cats’ biggest – or maybe just loudest – fan.
And, she is a finalist for Coach of the Year by the National High School Athletic Coaches Association in the girls’ assistant category. It is her second time receiving the nomination, in addition to earning the Wyoming High School Athletic Association’s Assistant Coach of the Year a few years back.
A correlation between her role as the junior varsity coach for Douglas volleyball and the national award come easy if you just see her in her element on the court.
“She is a very enthusiastic person who has a way of getting kids excited about being a part of our team,” high school volleyball head coach Angela Rhoades said. “It doesn’t matter which one of the Bearcat teams is playing, she is someone who talks the game, models intensity and cares about every kid feeling a part of it, whether on the court or on the bench.”
An interesting dynamic to consider while looking at the Lady Cat bench is Rhoades’ and Hoopman’s bond.
“We have been friends for so long that sometimes we wear the same outfits to school on accident,” Hoopman laughed. Both teach at Douglas High School.
“We’ve done this for so long together that we can pretty much finish each other’s sentences,” Rhoades added.
The pair have been coaching together for more than 20 years, dating back to 1999 in Chadron, Nebraska. When one came to Douglas, the other followed.
“It is an honor to coach under Angela,” Hoopman said. “She is the reason I am the coach that I am today.”
She has learned “innumerable” things about the sport from Angela over the years, including how to coach with integrity.
“I am lucky that I have gotten to learn from the best,” she exclaimed.
Her passion for the sport remains intact after all these years. When seeing everything “click” together for a student athlete, that makes all the work well worth the effort, she said. The bond forged between athlete and coach is also a highlight.
“I think the most special bond is watching the players grow over the course of their lives,” she said. “Sports teach life lessons and it is special to hear when a past player applies a lesson learned in volleyball to their life after high school.”
Melissa has had the pleasure of coaching her two daughters, Maddy, who graduated in 2018, and Abby, a senior. She also has a son, Zach.
The senior says growing up in the Hoopman household meant volleyball is simply a part of life.
“I actually went to my first open gym when I was three weeks old, but I just hung out in my car seat,” Abby joked. “Sometimes after school I would go to practice and shag balls for the girls. I started playing AAU in third grade.”
Abby didn’t get any special treatment on the court from her coach-mother. Everything had to be earned.
“My mom consistently challenged me to improve,” she said, noting the challenge wasn’t always easy. “But it made me a better person today. She was always willing to help me with the little things and I liked that.”
“Coaching Madee and Abby was rewarding for the same reason it is rewarding to coach all players,” Melissa said. “I enjoy watching them learn, grow and have that moment when everything clicks.”
Melissa still finds ways to continue growing in the sport herself, even after 20 years of coaching.
“I strive to keep learning more about the game, and I hope I can be a positive role model for our players,” she said. “This nomination would not have happened without our entire coaching staff and the players. Angela and Jenna Anderson, our freshmen coach, and the players help and challenge me to be the best coach I can be every day.”
“Melissa has always been that person who goes above and beyond,” Rhoades added. “She is dependable and the kids have learned not just volleyball, but life lessons, from Coach Hoopman.”