Lady Cardinals Get New Coach
FORMER ASSISTANT HOWARD ASSUMES LEADERSHIP OF VOLLEYBALL PROGRAM
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.