BELOIT − After reluctantly giving up her role as West Branch's varsity volleyball coach to serve as a school administrator, Penny DeShields found herself ready to return to the sidelines.
DeShields led the Warriors to a 20-win season and berth in the Division II district semifinals last fall after she accepted an adminstrative position as assistant principal at the high school.
School policy prohibits those in administrative posts from coaching positions, forcing DeShields to give up the volleyball job.
However, just a few weeks after former West Branch assistant Alyssa Streb accepted the head coaching position, she surprised the Warriors by accepting a similar coaching and teaching position at Lowellville.
"I didn't want to leave [the head coaching job], but I had to give it up because I became an assistant principal," DeShields said.
With time elapsing before the start of preseason practice on August 1, West Branch opened up the application process. DeShields, one of the applicants, eventually was re-hired as head coach. For the second straight school year, she will try to balance administrative work and coaching.
"Being an assistant principal is different than teaching, but having 20 years in the classroom gave me the tools to be an instructional leader," DeShields said. "I also taught four core courses at the middle school and that helped me become even more prepared to be an administrator."
DeShields' return brings stability to a program that finished 19-5 in 2018, 17-7 in both 2019 and 2020 and 20-5 overall and 9-3 in Eastern Buckeye Conference play in 2021. Two of the losses were against Eastern Buckeye Conference rival and conference champion Marlington (21-4), while the other three setbacks were handed by Division II state semifinalist Lake Catholic (22-6), Girard (24-2) and improving conference rival Alliance (11-12).
There also will be player continuity, headed by senior setter Hannah Rush, senior libero/outside hitter Adele Peters, senior outside hitter Claire Brunner, junior middle hitters Mikayln Fitts and Olivia Showalter and sophomore libero Ragan Greeneisen.
"We have several starters back and several other [letter winners] ready to make a contribution, and I'm happy to get a chance to work with them again," DeShields said.
While happy with moving into administration, DeShields still possesses an insatiable appetite for coaching, something she has done successfully for more than two decades. Before coming to West Branch, she was also head coach at Louisville, a former Northeastern Buckeye Conference rival, for eight years (1998-2005), compiling an impressive 140-56 record.
"I love coaching," she added. "It's not only teaching the girls team skills, but also watching them grow as players and being part of something bigger than themselves."
This article originally appeared on The Alliance Review: Penny DeShields re-hired as West Branch head volleyball coach