Sharen Speckhals doesn’t like to use a lot of words, in fact, the shorter the phrase the better. Neither her inflection nor her coaching advice really changes, and it is this way on and off the volleyball court.
This becomes apparent after spending time with her and the nine girls that make up the Hermann/New Haven, or HNH, club volleyball team that competed Sunday in the 16-and-under age division at the Show-Me State Games.
“C’mon, we’re OK. Work as a team and find the ball out there,” Speckhals said as her team prepared to return a serve against the Aurora Lady Houns.
Her calm demeanor seemed to have the desired effect, as HNH won both games in the match 21-19.
For HNH players, Speckhals’ simple approach seems to work best.
“They don’t get real excited, and I guess that’s a good thing,” Speckhals said as her girls lounged during the break between matches in the northwest corner of Southwell Gymnasium at Columbia College.
With her hand resting on her chin, she watched other matches taking place, doing as much scouting as possible during HNH’s 90 minute break.
Speckhals is in many ways de facto mother, ever-mindful of her team’s state of mind and activity. She glances at them occasionally, watching them thumb through the communal copy of Star magazine, enjoy a packet of Vegi-Tales fruit-snacks, or catch a quick catnap on the hardwood floor.
“Is anyone hungry,” she inquired after HNH’s match against the GMAC Crush of Columbia. “We can send someone to get some Subway if anyone is hungry.”
After 17 years of coaching with HNH, she has seen different personality traits manifest themselves in the makeup of her team. Speckhals said that this year’s squad is a little different.
“They’re a little cliquish at times,” Speckhals said. “You’ll see a lot of other teams walking around, and sitting together. We sometimes break off into little groups of two or three people.”
Speckhals said it’s not that the girls don’t get along. Rather, it is tied to tryouts, set for Aug. 8, when the players will be competing to make Hermann’s varsity squad.
Hermann may well be a volleyball powerhouse at the 2A level, consistently scheduling games against larger schools such as Hickman, Rock Bridge and Jefferson City to face a tougher test than presented by teams in their class.
For the time being, the club team is playing well. In the huddle and on the floor there is a keen understanding that, for the moment, everyone must be on the same page.
The girls shout words of encouragement over the sound of squeaking shoes, and cheers on the other two courts where games are taking place. All while parents smile as the girls exchange high-fives after winning.
This quiet confidence is communicated in a quick glance, a nod of approval, and a quick grin just before a serve goes up.
Nothing seems to faze them, even when the occasional pass is too high, dig too late, or spike too long.
“They’re a scrappy group, and they go about their business,” Speckhals said. “It can be a tough group sometimes, but every team is unique and presents its own challenges.”