It’s been a record breaking volleyball season for the Lady Sauras and leading the way has been coach Doug Balser. The program finished their regular season 21-5, 6-4 in the Western Piedmont Conference and swept the first round of state playoffs against North Rowan over the weekend. On Thursday, at the conference championship Balser was named 2A WPAC volleyball coach of the year.
“The greatest joy in coaching is the impact you can have on each individual player. To me, how the players turn out later in life is more important than any single game victory,” he said.
Balser came to South Stokes five years ago as an American History teacher and took the position of volleyball head coach. With coaching experience in a number of sports including basketball for 15 years, soccer, tennis, golf, baseball and softball, he also served as a former athletic director.
In 1998, his volleyball coach resigned the day before tryouts.
“Since I had some knowledge of the game, I took over the program and have been coaching ever since.”
“Volleyball is an ultimate team game. Each player must rely on the other players to do their job or the team can’t be successful. To me this is an incredible life lesson as well. Most of the girls who play high school volleyball won’t have a career in volleyball, but the ability to trust others and work as a unit will make them successful in their careers and personal life,” the coach said.
Over the years Balser has become a strong advocate for students participating in sports.
“High school athletics is so much more than just wins and losses. If it’s done right, the girls can learn life lessons that will make them better people. All of these players will have families and careers, and how they function as a team on the court can directly relate to how they handle adversity later in life,” Balser said.
As a coach for the past 25 years, Balser’s worked with a number of memorable teams, but said this season’s group is special.
“Not only have they done the work, but they have done so by supporting each other. Many teams can be unified when everything is going well, but this team became more unified during times of hardship. We had several extremely important matches this year where we were losing, with our backs to the wall. These are the games that a weaker, less unified team will struggle, instead this group supported each other, and worked together to win those matches,” he said.
According to Balser, people may not realize his girls spend hours on the track, in the weight room, and workout in a hot gym with no air conditioning pushing themselves to improve.
“They have made tremendous sacrifices, not just this season but for some of them four years. We do spring and summer workouts, attend team camp, host middle school camps, and they do all of these things while other high school students are just hanging out. To get better, the girls have given up a lot, but because of it they’re enjoying one of the best seasons in school history,” Balser said.
The Sauras program is losing two strong competitors in seniors Taylor Moulton and Samantha Williams, but Balser believes his JV program has taken notice of the leadership in his varsity players.
“If they can replicate the work effort, unity, and passion that this year’s varsity team has displayed, we have a good future.”
Amanda Dodson can be reached at (336) 813-2426 or on Twitter at AmandaTDodson.