Lady Car­di­nals Get New Coach


Washington County Enterprise-Leader - - SPORTS - By Mark Humphrey

FARM­ING­TON — The va­cancy cre­ated when for­mer Farm­ing­ton vol­ley­ball coach Mar­shall re­signed over the sum­mer didn’t last long.

His re­place­ment Mike Howard, a Biomed­i­cal teacher, of the Farm­ing­ton High School staff, was con­tacted al­most im­me­di­ately.

“I’ve been here at Farm­ing­ton four years, I’ve been an as­sis­tant coach for Coach Ward ev­ery free time and ev­ery sec­ond I have,” Howard said. “He took a po­si­tion at an­other school and they called me that day. I’m ex­cited to take over. The girls know me. I know them, and we’re ready to move for­ward in the new phase of this pro­gram.”

Howard, who hails from Hot Springs, and Ward, a Ber­ryville na­tive, met as col­lege roo­mates while at­tend­ing Arkansas Tech in Rus­sel­lville. Each pur­sued dif­fer­ent de­grees. Howard was in­ter­ested in coach­ing while Ward stud­ied Math­e­mat­ics.

“We were very big vol­ley­ball fans,” Ward said.

First Ward, then Howard re­lo­cated to Fayet­teville. Ward had no in­ten­tion of go­ing into coach­ing un­til twins, Lau­ren and Lind­sey Black­burn, who both played vol­ley­ball for Farm­ing­ton, ini­ti­ated a stu­dent in­cen­tive to re­cruit Ward to be­come head coach at Farm­ing­ton, Howard’s coach­ing de­gree and per­sonal ex­per­tise helped Ward, who had no coach­ing back­ground.

“He has been help­ing out with my pro­gram for many years, but last year he was a true as­sis­tant coach com­pletely by vol­un­teer — 100 per­cent,” Ward said. “This is ac­tu­ally his first year to get any pay for his ser­vices although I did buy him din­ner once in a while.”

Howard played a lot of bas­ket­ball and foot­ball in high school for Hot Springs Lake­side, then went to Arkansas) Tech to play foot­ball. He played three years there.

“Then I stopped play­ing to fo­cus on stud­ies and moved up here to North­west Arkansas, and I haven’t looked back,” Howard said.

At Fayet­teville, Howard and Ward be­gan play­ing recre­ational vol­ley­ball at the Ozark Vol­ley­ball Club where they en­coun­tered a pair of in­ter­na­tional stu­dents, who came to the United States to play col­lege vol­ley­ball; even­tu­ally be­com­ing coaches. The men’s knowl­edge of the game grew im­mensely un­der the tute­lage of Ju­liana Todes­can, who grew up in Sao Paulo, Brazil; and Giedre Tar­nauskaite, of Kau­nas, Lithua­nia, who spent two years as the lead as­sis­tant at Pa­cific Univer­sity in Ore­gon, fol­low­ing one sea­son as a vol­un­teer as­sis­tant at the Univer­sity of Port­land. She is now in her third year as as­sis­tant coach with the Univer­sity of Mon­tana vol­ley­ball pro­gram and serves as re­cruit­ing co­or­di­na­tor for the Griz­zlies.

Ward has much con­fi­dence that Howard will con­tinue to build the Lady Car­di­nal pro­gram.

“He knows the game of vol­ley­ball very well,” Ward said. “He’s very fa­mil­iar with Farm­ing­ton and all the girls. He’s def­i­nitely con­sis­tent with what I did. Him and I were taught vol­ley­ball by the same coaches and we have a lot of the same philoso­phies so I don’t see hardly any­thing that’s dif­fer­ent from what I would be do­ing right now.”

Howard’s vi­sion for the pro­gram is sim­ple — train and com­pete while en­joy­ing the moment.

“Right now, it’s look­ing bright, we’re try­ing to de­velop play­ers and we’re try­ing to play high-level vol­ley­ball, un­der control, not do any­thing crazy and just have a good time and win it,” Howard said. “Our girls love to win. They don’t like los­ing, it gives them that bit­ter taste in their mouth so they come to work ev­ery day. They come to prac­tice. They’re ready to work and I’m ex­cited for us.”

Howard’s big­gest chal­lenge right now is tend­ing to all the lit­tle things.

“The vol­ley­ball, the coach­ing, day-to-day prac­tice is easy. I’ve been do­ing that for­ever. Ev­ery­body that plays vol­ley­ball asks me for tips so I’ve been coach­ing for as long as I’ve been play­ing,” Howard said. “The hard­est thing for me is do­ing all the be­hind-the-scenes stuff, plan­ning, set­ting things up, bus trips, all the busy work that no­body likes do­ing any­way that I’ve never had to do. I’m get­ting that lined out, and I’m just ex­cited to see the girls, all their hard work pay­ing off on the court.”

Farm­ing­ton is 2-1-1 on the young sea­son and looked strong in Fri­day’s three­games sweep of ri­val Prairie Grove, 25-23, 25-16, 25-14.


Mike Howard, Farm­ing­ton’s new head vol­ley­ball coach, is all smiles after guid­ing the Lady Car­di­nals to a 3-set sweep (25-23, 25-16, 25-14) over ri­val Prairie Grove on Thurs­day.


New Farm­ing­ton head vol­ley­ball coach Mike Howard goes over strat­egy dur­ing a time­out while com­pet­ing at Prairie Grove Thurs­day. The Lady Car­di­nals pre­vailed in three sets, 25-23, 25-16, 25-14.

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