Transition in sports is always difficult, but the Denton Calvary volleyball team appears to be making that transition a smooth one.
Coming off a berth in the TAPPS 2A state tournament and its head coach Donna Martin stepping down to focus on her club team the Conquerors, Calvary athletic director Jay Houser was faced with the daunting task of replacing his beloved volleyball coach with his and the school’s sights set on another run to the state tournament.
Houser leaned on former Guyer head coach Jennifer Bramlett to lead Calvary back to the state tournament and help continue the team’s rising tradition.
“As athletic director, there was tremendous pressure on me to find someone that was as high of caliber as Donna Martin and I believe Jennifer is,” Houser said. “It’s like going from Tom Landry to Jimmy Johnson.”
Bramlett is currently the Dallas Force Volleyball Club assistant director and began her high school head coaching career at Jacksboro in 2003. She took over as head coach at Guyer in 2005, and during her tenure, the Lady Wildcats claimed the 2007 and 2008 district championships and her earning District 5-4A coach of the year in each of those seasons.
Bramlett said there are many elements to the transition from Guyer to Calvary, but the most positive side effect has been with her family, as her move to Calvary allows her to spend more time with them in Aubrey.
“I am really excited about it,” Bramlett said. “I loved my job at Guyer, but I got to the point where I needed to see my 5-year-old daughter more. I miss the feeling of a team and needing to beat a district rival and the thrill of a playoff run. Now I’m able to do all that and still see my daughter.”
Saddled with the responsibility of helping Calvary return to state, Bramlett’s reputation has already had an impact on her new home.
“I think it’s incredible for Calvary to work with Jennifer Bramlett,” Houser said. “She played in college, which is something that I always look for in a candidate. She had good experience in Jacksboro, but for us to get a coach that has coached at a 4A school, it’s a miracle. She is going to bring so much to our school. We have already gotten inquiries from kids from other local schools after they heard she was coming here. That’s the great name that she has.”
As for Houser’s confidence in Bramlett’s ability to lead the team back to state, Houser said they agreed that with the team’s flourishing direction — state was not only attainable, but a near requirement.
“She accepted the job with the expectations that we want to go back to state and win it all,” Houser said. “We’ve got the girls to do it, and with what Jennifer brings, we’ve got the talent, and I think we will have as good of shot this year.”
Bramlett echoed Houser’s goals with her own.
“My goal has always been to win the state championship and that’s not going to change,” Bramlett said. “I’m in a position where I can accomplish that goal. I want to help develop this team and make sure that they learn the values that it takes to be successful in life. I had an opportunity to meet with the kids and they want more than they had last year. That’s a great situation to walk into. That’s something I tried to build with my Guyer kids is to keep them excited and motivated.”
For Bramlett and Houser, the motivation for success will always be the driving force for their school, but both recognize and embrace the unique opportunity they have at inspiring and molding young minds.
“I ate up volleyball and I still do,” Bramlett said. “It’s a great way to learn many things from getting along with people to pushing yourself and dealing with failures. That’s what I enjoy about teaching young women the most.”
Despite the transition of head coaches, Houser’s gauge for success is not only on the court, but also in the girls’ futures.
“That’s truly the biggest thing,” Houser said. “Honestly, if we don’t win a match in district and Jennifer has an incredible, positive impact on these girls in life and their walk with the Lord, then it has been successful. She’s the kind of coach where she pushes them hard and the girls will know she loves them.”
PATRICK HAYSLIP can be reached at 940-566-6873. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.