Coaches have similar views of sport


The two coaches have some distinct similarities, and some definite differences when it comes to how they have handled their coaching careers.

And both of them seem to work well.

Kim Batman of Ingalls and Jennifer Barrett of Holcomb took their respective girls volleyball teams to highly successful seasons during 2012 and for their accomplishments, they share The Telegram's Area Coach of the Year honor.

It was, in some small measure, like looking in a mirror when assessing the coaches and their recently completed seasons.

With a mixture of senior leadership, and talented underclassmen, both programs flourished.

Batman, in her fifth season, guided the Lady Bulldogs to a 31-11 season record, an appearance in the Class 1A-Division II state tournament, while enjoying one of the most successful years in school history.

Barrett, meanwhile, in just her third year at the helm of the Lady Longhorns, saw her team finish 30-8, advance to the Class 3A sub-state championship match before falling to Hoisington on the Lady Cardinals' homecourt, with the last set being a 32-30 marathon that was believed to be the highest scoring match of the 2012 season in Kansas.

Batman and Barrett are both southwest Kansas natives Batman a Sublette High graduate and Barrett an alum of Garden City.

"The big thing for me is being around the kids, having a chance to get to state," Batman said during a recent interview. "I love being active and I really love the game."

Earlier in her career, Batman coached at South Gray and Scott City before getting married and then having three children, the youngest of which was a freshman player on her Lady Bulldog team this fall.

"As a coach, you just try to be positive and develop good leaders," Batman said. "You look to develop a strong work ethic and more helping them become the type of person I want them to be. It's no different than teaching in the classroom, it's just you're teaching on the court. Sometimes, it's a struggle, but I was really fortunate to have a group of girls that did everything I could ask of them."

Batman's team this season was sparked by a pair of seniors setter Tara Whipple, who made first team All-Area, and Rebecca Wyatt, a second-team selection.

"No. 1, Tara's just a good person with excellent leadership skills," Batman said of her top player. "She's not the tallest, but she makes up for it in how hard she plays. She's very smart and always knew where to place it for the go-to player."

Batman said that when the season began, she had three returning starters and then had to mesh in two freshmen.

"At times, they were very hard on themselves, trying to be perfect," Batman said. "Sometimes, they'd be uptight, and when they settled down, they really played great volleyball."

Barrett and her husband have two young children, and the demands of coaching daily practices, out-of-town trips to matches and some Saturday tournaments all create those challenges in finding a balance in one's life.

But make no mistake about it, volleyball is a love for Barrett.

"It was a big honor for me that I got to coach these girls," Barrett said. "This group of girls are special and this season meant a lot to everyone for a lot of reasons."

A strong senior contingent, mixed in with talented underclassmen like junior Haley Heydman and sophomore Taylor Deniston, provided the talented Lady Longhorns with the skills to compete all season.

"I think for us, by far the fact that team chemistry came around has as much to do with our success as anything," Barrett said. "We're blessed that we have a lot of good athletes, and several things just clicked this season. They worked hard in the offseason and they got in the weight room and got stronger. Their verticals (jumps) increased. They came back in better shape."

She also changed some of her offensive sets to take advantage of the team's overall quickness.

"There were more opportunities for our hitters," Barrett said. "We had some new sets, and we were able to be quicker at attacking. It's an offense that I hope we can continue."