When Arlington and Lamar met on the volleyball court in mid-September, it wasn’t just the latest installment of one of the area’s most compelling rivalries. It was also a matchup of two top coaches with deep shared roots.
Lady Vikings coach Heather Woodman and Lady Colts coach Kim Spencer are both members of the Arlington High Volleyball Hall of Fame. The two former star players also coached together under former legendary Arlington coach Sue Cauley. Woodman was also Spencer’s top assistant in Spencer’s first season succeeding Cauley before Woodman left to become the Lamar head coach.
They’re not the only Cauley disciples making a name for themselves in the coaching ranks. Fellow Arlington High Volleyball Hall of Fame members include Mansfield Legacy coach Amanda Shingleton and South Grand Prairie coach Lauren Otto. Aledo coach Claire Gay also suited up for the Lady Colts, and Arlington High also has several assistants who played for Cauley.
“Sue made a large imprint on us as players, for sure, and I learned a lot from Kim, as well,” said Woodman, a standout setter for Arlington in the late 1990s and early 2000s. “It just says a lot about the impact Sue made on a lot of us, or it says that we were all gluttons for punishment wanting to go into teaching and coaching.”
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Now Spencer and Woodman are molding today’s standouts and perhaps tomorrow’s great coaches.
“We love playing for Kim Spencer,” Arlington outside hitter Taryn Cates said. “She’s really good at cheering us on when we’re playing good while keeping us working hard — in the hard times and the easy times, just keeping us playing as hard as we can all the time.”
I just think all of those coaches that are coaching right now, they have the passion. They had the passion as players and were the best players on their team. It’s because they loved what they did.
Arlington head coach Kim Spencer
Spencer, who starred at outside hitter for Arlington in the mid-1990s, said seeing what kind of adults her former players develop into is just as meaningful as guiding them to on-court success during their high school days.
“I just hope my kids understand the passion I have for this school and this game, them as players and the program itself,” Spencer said. “I just think all of those coaches that are coaching right now, they have the passion. They had the passion as players and were the best players on their team. It’s because they loved what they did.”
When Woodman began her run at Lamar, where she’s turned a once-struggling program into a playoff mainstay capable of making a deep run, she concedes it was hard to go against players she used to coach.
“I think that first year it was hard, because those kids at Arlington were my kids that I had coached,” Woodman said. “But now, I didn’t coach any of those kids. So as the years have gone on, it’s lost some of its enormity and settled into another big game we have to play.”
Lamar and Arlington have made a habit lately of playing big games. One of the biggest came in the third round of the 2015 6A playoffs, with the Lady Colts and Lady Vikings vying for a spot in the regional tournament. Lamar won the hotly-contested match, played at Thomas Coliseum in Haltom City, in four sets.
“When you’ve got a coach who just left our program, she knows where our weaker passers are, she knows where we’re weak defensively,” Spencer said. “And that was really hard that one year where we faced her to go to regionals. It was a such a close game, both sides, and it was because we both knew each other. We knew how each other coached, and she knew our weaknesses because she just left our program.”
Both Spencer and Woodman came from a strong program at Arlington and both are building or maintaining volleyball powerhouses with plenty of staying power. These coaches are carrying on a passion that dates back to their own playing careers.
“It takes a special person to go into coaching because it is a huge commitment,” Spencer said. “All these players that are now coaching love the game.”
This story has been corrected.