High School Volleyball

High school volleyball coaches battle motherhood. ‘It takes a village from your family’

Being a mother is one of the toughest jobs in the world.

No matter how many times we say thank you, it simply isn’t enough.

Now, balancing the endless tasks of motherhood with being a high school volleyball coach and, well, how do you do it?

In the fall, those coaches can spend over 10 hours away from home per day during the season, and travel out of town for tournaments during the first three weeks of the season.

So it takes a village and a great support system to balance out both their children on and off the court.

It’s even harder when your husband is also a high school volleyball coach.

Aledo’s Claire Gay has 3-year-old twins, but if you thought juggling twins was difficult, her husband, Nicholas, is the head coach at Weatherford, so both parents are away from home well over 40 hours a week.

“It’s definitely a balance and there’s a lot of organizing and planning ahead, which is a strength of mine,” said Gay, who was inducted into the Arlington High Hall of Fame on Aug. 19. “I have a wonderful village and both our families are very helpful.”

Good thing is both coaches were at the same three tournaments this season; at the Rockwall Battle of the Rock, Northwest ISD Classic and Leander Volleypalooza.

They have help as the grandparents will take care of the twins when both teams are playing. They reside in Arlington and Rockwall, and will go watch whichever team is at home.

“My twins are gaining something out of it too. They get to see mom and dad hard at work, and we become an example to them,” Gay said. “They love meeting people so there’s some value to being a coach’s kid, but at the same time it’s hard not having mom and dad around. The toughest time is August because we’re both away for three weeks.”

Growing up in the gym

Burleson coach D’Anna Newton’s two girls (ages 3 and 7), practically live at the gym.

Newton was pregnant during the season both times; her oldest born in February and youngest in December.

“I think a lot of people say they can’t do it and they start getting that mom guilt, but you just need to find those people that will help out. My kids live up here pretty much so it’s totally do-able if you’re willing to do it,” said Newton, who is in her eighth season as the Elks’ head coach.

“You need to find that balance from being a mom at home to a mom at school. I always say it takes a village from your family to the volleyball girls and their parents. Everyone is helping out.”

Three of the top programs in Arlington ISD have moms at the helm of their programs in Martin’s Tracy Perez-Petersen, Lamar’s Heather Woodman and Arlington’s Kim Spencer.

“I really think you need to be married to the right person and they need to understand your goals as a working mom and who’s in charge of a big program,” said Perez-Petersen, who has boys ages 12, 10 and 8.

Perez-Petersen began her coaching career as an assistant in 1996 and has been the head coach at Martin since 2005. Her oldest son was born in 2007.

“Shoutout to my husband, and I have great parents,” she said. “My mom and dad have helped a lot and have alleviated some stress. People will ask me ‘how do you do it’ and I just do. You have to be determined.”

Martin, which is coming off a second-place finish at the New Braunfels tournament on Aug. 17, has won more than 25 games each of the past six seasons. The Warriors have gone 74-15 the past two years with a trip to the 6A Region I final in 2017.

“You can’t forget your kids at home,” Perez-Petersen said. “Your players are important, I love them so much, but don’t forget about home. I find it harder when they’re older because they know mom’s isn’t there. But my boys are very supportive and involved in my life; I get hugs at the door everyday and they’ll ask how my team is this year.”


Pregnant during season

Woodman (3 kids) and Spencer (1) agree.

“You need that support staff at home,” said Spencer, whose son is almost 3. “My parents will keep him when my husband goes to work, he’ll pick them up and they’ll come to the games.”

Spencer was pregnant during the season.

“That was the crazy part, having him in the middle of the season,” said Spencer, who’s coming off her 200th career win. “But my kids, coaches and parents were very supportive.”

Woodman is in her sixth season with Lamar.

The first day she got the job, she gave birth to her middle child, 5. Her third child, 1, came a day before try-outs and she was back on the court two days later.

“It’s hard, but do-able. My parents live down the street and my husband works at UT-Arlington,” said Woodman, who also has a 9-year-old. “The support I get from those three people is out of this world. I wouldn’t be able to do it without them. There’s no way.”

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Born and raised in Hawaii, Brian Gosset graduated from Northern Arizona University with a degree in journalism before coming to Texas in 2014. He’s covered high school sports — yes, pretty much every high school sport — for the Star-Telegram ever since.