Purcellville, Va. (September 25, 2014) – Woodgrove High School volleyball coach Carmel Keilty recently passed a milestone only one other Virginia volleyball coach has reached.
When the Wolverines defeated Jefferson County, W.Va., on September 11, Keilty became only the second coach in the state to record 400 volleyball victories. (Albemarle High School’s Mark Ragland has 534 and counting.)
Keilty said it’s not the number of wins, but the quality of her athletes that makes this achievement special.
“It’s nice, but it’s a number. It’s really not about me, it’s about the kids. I’ve put in the time, but so have the kids. That’s what’s made it successful over the years…
“All the kids who have come through the program that I’ve seen develop and grow into positive role models… That means more to me than the 400.”
This is Keilty’s second year at Woodgrove after coaching for 16 years at Loudoun Valley and a decade at Heritage. That’s a long tenure for someone who didn’t play volleyball in high school or college and didn’t know much about the sport when former Loudoun Valley Athletic Director Bootsy Leonard asked her to coach it.
“I was hoping to just get a win here and there…
“I just had to go out and research, talk to people and go to clinics…
“I had to do a lot of leg work and learn the sport over the years. I’m still learning it…
“It’s been interesting to see it evolve… The level of the game is just phenomenal now.
The most exciting thing is the number (of players) who have the opportunity to go on to college.”
Keilty said she doesn’t remember individual matches, with the exception of the two that resulted in state championships for Loudoun Valley. “You remember the camaraderie going down and the whole event.
“Then it’s time to move on to the next one.”
The ability to move on is the secret to coaching longevity, according to Keilty.
“You take it for what it is. Kids are going to have bad nights. I’m going to have bad nights coaching. You’ve got to move on…
“Some kids are so hard on themselves that they take it personally. It’s hard to overcome some of those. You just do little things to help them overcome; whether it’s just talking to them or doing little motivational things on the side. That’s been the most intriguing part of coaching; figuring out what makes kids tick and how to motivate every athlete that you have.”
Keilty knows what to say to an athlete who is too hard on themselves.
“Tomorrow’s another day. Worry about the next point, don’t worry about the mistake. If you lose a match, there’s always tomorrow. You have to work hard and improve every time you step on the court. If you do that, you’ll be where you want to be; in the postseason.”
Teaching taught Keilty the secret to being an effective coach.
“I learned in my teaching career to treat people with respect and you’ll earn their respect. Have a passion for the game and it will come back to you…Most of all, they are kids and they’re going to make mistakes. You have to help them through those mistakes but, more importantly, help them through life.”
For the first two decades of her coaching career, Keilty also coached basketball, a sport she once played. When forced to choose between the two, she knew basketball was the one to go (though she’s still a big fan). “Too intense during games.”
The 400th win wasn’t an intense affair. “The kids didn’t know. I didn’t say anything.”
Athletic Director Rusty Lowery came over with signs and flowers after the victory. “It’s one of those things – you don’t quite believe it – but it has occurred… It was fun because the kids were so surprised.”
However, Keilty said she wants her coaching career to be remembered for something far beyond victories.
“That I was fair. That I had a lot of integrity… I cared about (players). They came away with a lot of good character and became, what I think, are good role models.”