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RB volleyball gears up for team’s inaugural season

Starting a new high school sports program comes with numerous challenges. Starting one in the middle of a pandemic – and with a coach who has never coached the sport – adds to the challenge.

Nevertheless, Shane Nichols and his Red Bay Lady Tigers are ready to face the challenges head on as the school competes in volleyball for the first time in school history.

Volleyball has been growing in Franklin County in the past decade with Tharptown, Russellville and Belgreen adding teams. Now Red Bay has joined that list.

“The girls are really excited about this,” said Nichols. “We had about 40-45 girls try out. It is something new, and they have worked hard and are looking forward to it.”

Nichols said his girls have realized volleyball is not a sport they can just start out playing on a championship level.

“I don’t think they understood how difficult and complicated the game is,” Nichols explained. “They are good kids, and they want to work hard. They are still learning. It is a huge learning curve. They will do what it takes to make it work. They have had a great attitude.”

It has also been a learning curve for the coach.

“It’s the hardest sport I have ever coached,” said Nichols. “The rotations and the rules – it has been a huge learning curve for me as well. I have always been able to learn sports pretty easily, but this one is hard.”

A basic philosophy guides Nichols forward: “Coaching is coaching.

“It’s not about X’s and O’s; it is about teaching life lessons,” Nichols said. “It is about teaching kids how to overcome adversity and challenges they will face in life just like they have to do on the court or in the field.”

Nichols has had to apply those lessons to himself, starting a new program in the middle of a pandemic.

“It has been a whirlwind and crazy,” said Nichols. “We never got to have tryouts at the end of last year because of the shutdown, and we didn’t get much summer work either. I have had to work with the administration daily to make sure we are following the ever-changing guidelines. It has been difficult.”

Even seasoned volleyball programs have had to do massive schedule changes to comply with restrictions and suggestions from the state.

Most schedules have been significantly reduced, and Red Bay is no exception. The Tigers were originally scheduled to open their season at Tharptown Aug. 20, but when the school system moved the school start date to Aug. 20, administrators determined it would be best to reschedule.

Now the Tigers will host their first match Aug. 24 against the Hackleburg Panthers.