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Hodges named CCHS volleyball coach

New CCHS volleyball coach Stephen Hodges (at right) talks with sophomore Kaitlynn Fine during practice on Wednesday afternoon. The Lady Red start the 2013 campaign on Monday when they host Greeneville High School.
Published: 3:41 PM, 08/15/2013 Last updated: 3:42 PM, 08/15/2013

Author: Seth Butler
Source: The Newport Plain Talk

NEWPORT—A new face will be leading the Cocke County High School volleyball program when they take to the hardwood next week.

Stephen Hodges, a relative newcomer to the faculty at the school, has been brought on board as the Lady Red coach. He replaces Kelly Kitzmiller, who remains on school faculty, as the team’s coach.
Taking over the Lady Red program will mark the first coaching job for Hodges, who arrived as a faculty member at Cocke County High School last year.

Hodges, 43, is entering his second year the school’s engineering/computer-aided design instructor in the Ben W. Hooper Vocational School. Prior to teaching, Hodges had a 15-plus year career as a design engineer as Berkline in Morristown and Meco in Greeneville.

Despite being a newcomer to the world of education, Hodges is no stranger to volleyball. He has played competitively for over 15 years with a men’s travel squad, after picking up the sport at a young age. He also served as an assistant coach for two seasons at East Ridge Middle School in Morristown.

“I just kind of picked the game up,” Hodges said. “When I was younger, I played a lot of pick-up ball and just played to play, but then we actually got a group of guys and enjoyed and wanted to play.

“From there, we just kept playing,” said Hodges, who at one point installed a court in his backyard. “We will travel to places like Columbia, Birmingham and Atlanta and cities up north.”

Although most of his playing experience has been involved in the outdoor game on grass courts, Hodges thinks most of the concepts can make a positive transition to the indoor game for the Lady Red this season.

“I’ve brought some of that (outdoor) concept inside, because it’s a little different and the rules are stricter,” Hodges said. “If I can keep them to that standard, it just helps their indoor game.

“With the outdoor game, you play with triples so you have to learn to read hitters better, know where
you need to be defensively and move your feet better to pass,” Hodges said. “That’s the stuff I’ve incorporated and will continue to incorporate here.”

When Hodges took the reigns of the program in July, he has been busy playing catch-up ever since. Only having a handful of weeks to install his style of play, prior to next Monday’s season opener against Greeneville High School, has been something that’s been difficult to overcome.

“The downfall of getting thrown into things, is that there’s not been a lot of time to prepare,” Hodges said. “It would’ve been great if I could’ve known at the end of the school year that they needed me, that way I would’ve had the summer to prepare, but we’re doing what we can at this point.”

With a limited amount of time to acquaint himself with the new players, the adjustment period between players and coach has been a process over the last few weeks.

“They were a little unsure at first, but they’re coming around,” Hodges said. “I think they understand I’m not just Joe Blow the drafting teacher, but that I know the game and that I’ve been around volleyball enough.”

Despite jumping into the fire of taking over the reigns of the team weeks before the season begins, Cocke County’s newest coach thinks he has a team that will be capable of competing in District 2-AAA.

“I think we’ve got some talent on the team, we’ve got good strong kinds,” Hodges said. “I’ve seen a couple of areas where we need improvement and that’s what we’re working on right now.

“Overall we’ve got a strong team and I’m looking forward to see what we can do when the season starts,” Hodges said.

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