By Rodney Hays
It may not be this year. It may not be next year. But new PHS volleyball head coach Erin McClanahan expects to win a state volleyball championship at Prosper High School.
McClanahan, who was hired this past spring, is no stranger to state championships. In high school, she helped her team win a state title. At her previous job as an assistant coach at Lovejoy High School, she was a part of three state championships in a row.
McClanahan believes she knows what it takes to win: The desire to compete.
"I have to teach these girls that they have to compete all the time," she said. Whether it’s agility drills or weight lifting repetitions, McClanahan is trying to instill the desire to compete.
McClanahan, 28, has always been a competitor, even if it meant getting in trouble. In elementary school, McClanahan’s mom had to hear about how Erin was being a little too competitive around the tetherball pole. Her mom told the principal she would talk to Erin about it. And she did.
In the car on the way home, she told Erin to keep doing what she was doing and never stop competing. That philosophy stuck.
McClanahan grew up in St. Louis, won a state championship at her all-girls Catholic High School and played four years of volleyball at St. Louis University.
She originally went to school to become a lawyer. "But I took constitutional law and hated it," she said. So she switched gears.
She graduated in 2006 with a political science degree and began looking for ways to attend and pay for graduate school. In the fall 2006, she landed at Stephen F. Austin University, where she went to graduate school and worked as an assistant coach for the Ladyjacks volleyball team. Two years later, she thought about getting a job working for a municipality as a city planner. She sent out resumes without getting a bite. It was another job calling her name.
"I couldn’t get volleyball out of my life," she said.
After helping one of her college student athletes learn to read, just realized she needed to be a teacher. And a coach.
In 2010, McClanahan was hired by Ryan Mitchell at Lovejoy. Mitchell has won five state championships in a row and McClanhan was a part of three of those. He became her mentor and friend, McClanahan said.
She enjoyed her time of winning at Lovejoy and told Mitchell that it would take a strong program to lure her away.
"One was Ursuline. One was Prosper," McClanahan said.
While bundled up in five layers to keep warm at a soccer game in February, Mitchell called and said the PHS job was open.
"If I am the head coach, I’ll only have to coach one sport, right?" she asked him. "Yep," he said. "I’m going to apply then."
She got the job in March.
Since then she has been working with the girls at speed camp, summer camps and this week’s team camp. Next week the season starts and McClanahan will expect a marked improvement from last year’s team that missed the playoffs for the first time in several years.
In the past several months, McClanahan has been working on relationships, both between her and the players and the players amongst themselves.
"The players have responded ten-fold," she said.
McClanahan stops short of promising a district championship in her first year but she does expect to compete. One of the reasons why she is cautious is because District 9-4A touts the state’s top 4A team in Frisco Centennial, last year’s district champion.
But this team will not fear competition. McClanahan wants to play the area’s toughest teams. Even though the Lady Eagles will host two tournaments, McClanahan will actually keep the varsity team out of one of them to play in the Northwest ISD tournament and battle stiffer competition.
McClanahan said she wants to create a foundation for a "premier level volleyball program for the state." She defines "premier" as a top five program.
And she wants to create a unique experience for every person who touches the program, from players to the coaches to the managers of the team.
That unique experience will continue next week when McClanahan begins the first week of her first year as a head coach. On Aug. 13, the Lady Eagles will open the regular season by hosting Northwest High School.
Fans will want to mark the calendar for Aug. 20, when the Lady Eagles and McClanahan will travel back to familiar territory and take on the Lovejoy Lady Leopards. It remains to be seen who will win that matchup, but Mitchell better hope there’s not a tetherball pole nearby.