Shannon Steele, center, chats with seniors from this season’s varsity volleyball team. Steele was named league coach of the year. From left: Sierra Cleaver, Shannon Steele, Amber Tolman and Demia Hardin. (The Enterprise/Yadira Lopez)
VALE – Shannon Steele doesn’t keep track of wins and losses.
Sure, she said, she probably has them archived somewhere. But for Steele, her 27-year volleyball coaching career has been more about the players than the scoreboard.
The head coach of the Vale High School varsity volleyball team was selected as this year’s Eastern Oregon League coach of the year. The honor is bestowed by fellow coaches.
“My goal is to give kids an opportunity to see their greatness,” said Steele. “I want them to realize they can do hard things and that hard work pays off.”
It’s a lesson that applies to real life, she said.
Steele, who teaches English, is a lifelong Viking. She graduated from Vale in 1987 after four years of playing volleyball.
She went on to play the sport at Western Oregon University and coached at Sweet Home right after for about five years.
Then Vale came calling. Steele brought her love of the sport to her hometown and with it, came a state title in 2015.
“I believe in the ‘we’ not the ‘me,’” Steele said of her coaching style. “I truly believe practice makes perfect.”
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She’s known for packing the pre-season with tough matches.
Several of her players also received honors this season. Senior setter Maycee DeLong was one of three players of the year. DeLong also made the all-league first team along with juniors Emersyn Johnson and Tyanna Norton and sophomore Jaymeson Jensen. Norton also made the second team on the All-Tournament team. Senior Sierra Cleaver made all-league second team.
Honorable mention went to Demia Hardin, senior, and sophomore Lexi Cleaver.
The recognition capped an intense season for the Viking girls. The team made it through league play with a 10-0 record and fought hard but came home from the state tournament without hardware.
Steele said she was proud to have a fairly young team make it to the final eight.
“I just hope that every kid that goes through the program sees their importance to the team,” Steele said.
As she spoke, students milled in and out of her classroom – its door always open.
She’s not their friend, Steele said. She sees herself as a resource and an open book.
“I don’t think a lot of people realize how invested you are at school and how much it matters to us,” Lexy Rodgers, a senior on the varsity volleyball team, said as she sat on a couch at the back of the room.
When asked what would surprise people about Steele, the students reflected and joked.
She never sleeps, said one.
It’s true, said Steele.
She loves video games, said another.
Lies, said Steele.
One thing the students seemed to know for sure: they have Shannon Steele in their corner.
Have a news tip? Reporter Yadira Lopez: [email protected] or 541-473-3377
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