Anderson Valley’s coach retiring on a high note

By TED SILLANPAA
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Anderson Valley volleyball coach Michael “Flick” McDonald retires after his teams won four straight section championships. (Crista Jeremiason / The Press Democrat, 2012)

Anderson Valley volleyball coach Michael “Flick” McDonald retires after his teams won four straight section championships. (Crista Jeremiason / The Press Democrat, 2012)

Michael “Flick“ McDonald really has a flair for the dramatic.

“I’d been thinking about retiring. I’ve been at it for 30 years,” the Anderson Valley High volleyball coach said Sunday, a day after his team won its fourth consecutive North Coast Section Division 6 championship. “But to win to win another title Saturday and be able to retire … this is like walking into a casino, winning a big jackpot and walking out with all the winnings.”

McDonald, who has spent 30 seasons coaching both the junior varsity and the varsity at Anderson Valley, led his team to a 3-1 win against Rincon Valley Christian Saturday in Booneville for the Panthers’ fourth championships in four years. The club finished with a 26-2 record, 12-0 in the North Central League III.

“It was time,” McDonald said of his decision to retire. “Everything has a beginning, middle and an end. This was a good time to walk away.”

McDonald turned Anderson Valley into a small school volleyball powerhouse after playing recreational volleyball himself.

“I didn’t play in high school or college. And, I fell into the job when the previous coach left,” said McDonald, who’s a fifth-grade teacher at Anderson Valley Elementary. “It came to me by default. I wasn’t the first choice ..more like the third choice.”

When he got the job, McDonald started developing a coaching philosophy. The philosophy, like the community the school represents, is one of a kind.

“It’s not about the X’s and O’s. It’s about how you relate to the kids,” McDonald said. “The Anderson Valley community is a joy and so supportive. It’s not a wealthy community. The kids have a great work ethic and perseverance, like their parents.

“I didn’t make volleyball skill development the point of every practice plan. I coached and taught three things every day: perseverance, integrity and empathy. Focusing on those three things was my challenge. Those things were my objective and volleyball was the vehicle I used to help the kids.”

Difficult economic times haven’t prevented McDonald and his players from rising to statewide prominence.

“Poverty isn’t a barrier here,” he said. “These kids have to travel long distances to play and they overcome it. They have to overcome economically and they overcome in the classroom. Then, they went out and overcame in volleyball and other sports. Volleyball has become a part of the community here. It’s expected that girls will play volleyball.”

This year’s team had “the unstated goal” of winning a fourth consecutive NCS title.

“We had lots of starters coming back and thought we had a shot at it,” McDonald said. “It was still a long, grueling road to the championship. Every practice. Every match. Day by day.”

Senior setter Stephany Garcia led the Panthers. “Our success revolved around her play and her leadership,” McDonald said.

Senior Danielle Andersen was a senior leader and outside hitter. “Leadership is an intangible that can be more important than sheer athletic ability and skill,” the coach said. “Danielle was invaluable to us all season long as a leader and an athlete.”

Sophomore outside hitter Alex Farber was a standout.

“She was our main point scorer,” McDonald explained. “She could really rack of the points for us.”

Twins Heather and Chelsea Teague, both juniors, played key roles in the NCL III and NCS titles. Heather was a defensive specialist and Chelsea an outside hitter. Junior Juana Manriquez was “an outstanding hitter,” according to McDonald.

As has always been the case, Anderson Valley’s championship hopes hinged on an incredible defense.

“In an area this small, you can’t count on having tall, athletic players who can really jump every season,” McDonald said.

“If you talk to other coaches, they’ll tell you every year is not different at Anderson Valley. Every year we have our typical team and our typical team makes strong defense its core. That doesn’t change if you have tall kids or short kids. We tried to master the skills we had.”

Ted Sillanpaa can be reached at Ted.Sillanpaa@pressdemocrat.com

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