On duty with volleyball coach Hannah Byers

CLEAR FORK VALLEY — The atmosphere in a certain room just off the gymnasium at Clear Fork High School is probably a little different than it has been in the past.

A locker room, formerly used by males, now has the sounds of young women laughing, and talking with their coach about how to improve their volleyball skills.

The 13 14-to-18 year old girls are on the varsity volleyball team, coached by Hannah Byers. For a month before the regular school year started, the girls tried out, then got placed on the team. And there have been scrimmages, readying them for their first regular match against Fredericktown Aug. 22.

Byers was hired this year to be coach, coming to Clear Fork schools after a successful career at Westerville Central where she took her team of 13 year-olds to a national championship in Minneapolis in July.

When she is not coaching, she works as a neo natal nurse at Children’s Hospital in Columbus.

People might wonder how one person could combine a job as a neo natal nurse with volleyball coaching.

Byers says “I’m pretty lucky.” There is “so much in volleyball you can use as life skills,” she says.

When she is coaching she treats the girls “like adults.” She says “how you carry yourselves represent all of us no matter where you are.”

These girls, and others in the school system are the “next generation.” She said she is fortunate because she is teaching “what I love.”

Being a neo natal nurse places a person with the “sickest of the sick” kids in central Ohio, Byers said. She said there can be “22 weekers” who don’t weigh a pound. She said it is “never easy” to be that kind of nurse, and she sometimes has to “talk people through it.”

This relates to coaching, she said, because “I hope I teach these people.”

The girls Byers is working with arrive early to practice and stay late. They are very quick to state their opinions on things they want to learn when they are in their locker room.

Byers was telling the girls about doing “people touches consistently” and the girls said they want her to work with the hitters more.

When team members arrive at practice session they go through warm-ups, do ladders, plyometrics, sprints and do stretching at the end.

Plyometrics involve jumping and stretching.

They were considering their schedule for the following week and the start of school Thursday. They were to have a scrimmage after school Thursday, and Byers told them the bus would leave at 2:30. But school doesn’t let out until 2:40 p.m., the kids said. They were arguing that it wouldn’t matter if they left a little early because on the first day of school kids get told “this is a fire warning, this is a tornado warning,” said one girl.

Then the team and coach were informed that school buses are much in demand because students need them for transporation to and from school but other teams put in requests.

Byers got herself involved in athletics because as a kid, she said she was surrounded by boys — her brothers and kids in her neighborhood in Westerville. She was told she could play softball, but she “threw like a boy.” So she played baseball for five years on an all boys team.

In Westerville getting involved in athletics was demanding, because if a player didn’t get involved in “club ball” they wouldn’t be able to compete, she said.

She worked with one person who became her mentor.

She was told if she wanted to play volleyball in college she would need a full knee replacement because of a condition caused by an auto immune disease. Because she knew she wanted to be a nurse she decided against playing in college and moved on to nursing.

She found out about the Clear Fork job through a friend. She currently lives in Danville, and she will be married there to Justin Holt in October.

Byers said she wants her players to think they are always “pushing to get the carrot.” She wants to push them to the “breaking point” mentally and physically so that they can “celebrate” when they finish.

She will do things in practice like have players use a heavier ball, so that when it comes to competition everything will seem easier.

The regular season for volleyball ends two weeks before Byers will get married in October. The date of that wedding is Oct. 28.

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