Lawrence community sends LHS volleyball coach off with celebration after 17 years

photo by: Conner Becker/Journal-World

Lawrence High head volleyball coach Stephanie Scarbrough.

Former Lawrence High School Athletic Director Ron Commons said hiring Stephanie Scarbrough as the head volleyball coach was one of his easiest decisions.

Scarbrough, a two-time state champion as a Chesty Lion in the late 1990s, returned to her alma mater in 2007 to take over the top gig. Being a former Lion helped, but her tenacity, dedication and understanding stood out in the interview process for Commons.

“When she was a player, the tenacity she had — you knew she was going to bring that to coaching,” Commons said. “That was an easy hire for me.”

Seventeen years later, Scarbrough has stepped away from coaching at Lawrence and added another state championship (2018) to the program’s history. Former assistant coaches, teammates and players gathered to celebrate her career on Sunday at Wayne and Larry’s Sports Bar & Grill.

As a high school setter, Scarbrough ran the team’s offense. The position is a natural leadership role requiring a high volleyball IQ to run efficiently. Joan Wells, Scarbrough’s coach at the time, who had won 15 state championships with the Lions, said that Scarbrough’s leadership, even back then, set her apart.

“She was supportive of the whole team,” Wells said. “We had such togetherness.”

Scarbrough fell in love with the teaching as much as the sport itself. She would help with volleyball clinics in Lawrence, which started her coaching journey. A dozen years after her playing days at Lawrence ended, she became the school’s head coach.

Scarbrough has had several assistant coaches on her staff become head coaches elsewhere. For those coaches, the main takeaway was how to be a coach, more than any particular scheme or playing system.

Manhattan High School volleyball coach Nicole Jones took some of the Xs and Os of the job from Scarbrough. Under Scarbrough’s tutelage, Jones learned how best to coach the setter position, something she didn’t know much about before her time in Lawrence. Jones said that everything she coaches at the setter position came from Scarbrough.

Amy Hoffsommer had already held head coaching positions in high school and college before joining Scarbrough’s staff as an assistant. Still, the current Olathe West head volleyball coach took a lot from Scarbrough as a program manager. Hoffsommer said that she learned how to build a team. Building a cohesive unit around everyone’s strengths is a challenge in coaching, especially at the high school level, where coaches don’t pick or recruit the type of players they get. But that’s been a strength in Scarbrough’s coaching career.

“A lot of coaching, teaching, parenting is lead by example, and we try to make every kid feel like an individual, then bring them under that team umbrella,” Scarbrough said.

It’s that way, too, with the coaching staff. Decisions are made collectively by the entire staff. Scarbrough raised her two daughters in the gym, bringing them to practices, and encouraged other young parents on the staff to do the same. Everyone was equal.

Lawrence’s dominant volleyball tradition started back in the day with Wells, but one of the most essential parts of the job to Scarbrough was keeping the tradition. Scarbrough continually pressured herself to keep the program at the same level of success.

Scarbrough spent a long time at the Lawrence High gym and raised her two daughters there. Now, she’s looking forward to spending more time outside the gym with her family and watching her oldest daughter play as a mom, not as a coach.

In the distant future, she said she’d like to coach volleyball to the youths in Lawrence to help bolster the future classes at LHS and FSHS. But for now, the longtime coach will savor more time with her family and teaching health.

“I have a 7-year-old and my daughter will be a senior, so I’m just going to enjoy being a mom and a teacher,” she said.


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