As a young reporter breaking into the business in 1991, one of the first assignments I had was covering the Grapevine volleyball team under then-head coach Rick Johansen. His first assistant was a 29-year-old with a reserved yet ambitious personality in the former Dayna Farmer.
Now married and known as Dayna Horak, she knew she wanted to be a head coach, but the question was when. Timing and patience paid off in 1995, when Johansen took an assistant coaching job at North Texas. The then-Grapevine Independent School District turned the program over to Horak.
But time sure does move fast.
It’s been 20 seasons between Grapevine, Colleyville Heritage and Justin Northwest. Like any coaching journey, it’s been filled with highs and lows.
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Coaches preach to their teams about giving 110 percent every time they are on the field or court of play. But when they know they aren’t practicing what they are preaching, they have two choices. They can either get out of coaching or take a couple of years off to recharge.
Horak, 52, came to the conclusion not long ago that 2013 was it for her in the industry. She’s stepping down at Northwest’s volleyball coach and will remain as a teacher. Northwest Athletic Director Susan Elza hopes to have a replacement named by the end of January.
“I love the coaching and the competition because it’s an outlet for me,” Horak said. “But after doing this for 30 years I think I had reached a point after the season that I knew the time had come. The kids deserve someone who can give them everything. I want to be with my family and watch my sons.”
Coaching is spending countless hours away from the family. For Horak, the moment of clarity began in the summer of 2010, when her oldest son Michael started to develop breathing issues on a trip to Port Aransas.
The conditioned worsened to the point where he developed a devastating heart condition known as cardiomyopathy, a disease that causes the deterioration of the heart muscle. Eventually, Michael had to have a heart transplant. He received it on Horak’s 49th birthday, April 18, 2011.
Horak almost walked away from coaching then. No one would have blamed her if she had. However, she felt like she needed to keep her mind occupied and found that coaching Northwest.
That decision had merit, because Horak coached her team into the playoffs before it fell in the bi-district round to state power Flower Mound Marcus.
Horak arguably had her best team in 2013 when it finished second in District 4-5A to state semifinal participant Carroll. But a stunning bi-district loss to North Crowley left Horak with a gnawing feeling.
She took some time to get away and think about things and realized it was best to move on. Here resume reads 425-291 and 10 playoff appearances. She also took pride in starting the Colleyville Heritage program when the high school opened in 1996.
Now, she can be the supportive mom. Michael appears to be healthy, but constant checks are needed. He will graduate from Northwest this spring. Younger brother Matthew is a tennis player and is starting to make his way through the high school. Horak would actually like to watch a match or two.
If she can keep teaching her outdoor education class – she wrote the curriculum for it – that would be ideal. If that doesn’t work out, then she’ll move on to the next step.
Horak hasn’t ruled out a return to coaching, but it may be a few years before that happens.
“It’s hard to get the coaching out of you,” Horak said. “I’ve loved to coach volleyball, soccer, and softball. You give so much to coaching that your family suffers. Now, I want to be there for them.”
Of all the moves Horak has made, no one can question this one.