GREENFIELD — Continuity has been hard to come by for the Greenfield-Central volleyball program.
From 2008 to 2014, the Cougars were led by four head coaches: Jamie Andrews, Kelli Marchello, Rita Rouse and Kim Wildman. In 2015, they will play under a fifth.
After so much change, the athletics department was searching for someone who could bring stability to the program, Greenfield-Central athletics director Jared Manning said. He said he believes they found that person, even though at first glance she seems an unlikely candidate.
On May 11, after Manning’s search committee unanimously recommended her, the Greenfield-Central school board approved Deena Batton as the next Cougars volleyball coach.
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To call Batton’s coaching history sporadic would be an understatement. Since starting in the business in 1991, she has coached on and off for about 10 years total.
However, her discontinuous coaching career does not call into question her quality nor her desire to teach young athletes, Manning said. Instead, it harkens to circumstance.
“There was no doubt among us,” Manning said of the search committee. “She would be the best fit for Greenfield-Central.”
For nearly 25 years, Batton would take on numerous coaching positions before resigning them a short time later due to having children, continuing her education or dealing with family health. Those things take precedence, the Morristown High School alum said.
But now, Batton said, with her children mostly grown and her family in good health, she and her family believed it was time for her to make the move to a position she has never filled before: head volleyball coach.
That is not to say she is without head coaching or volleyball coaching experience. Among her many stops, Batton has coached varsity tennis at Morristown and has been assistant volleyball coach at Greenfield-Central to Rouse and Wildman.
“I have come to the conclusion that in life, my role is as a support person,” said Batton a resource teacher at Greenfield Intermediate School with an elementary education degree from the University of Indianapolis. “That’s a lot of what coaching is. Supporting and teaching. I love working with kids, and I’m excited to help these girls fulfill their potential.”
Most of the girls she’ll be working with went 20-13 under Wildman last season. They were eliminated in straight sets by Hoosier Heritage Conference champion and, at the time, Class 4A No. 8 Yorktown in the Sectional 9 semifinal at Greenfield-Central.
Wildman and the Cougars suffered a similar fate in her first season at the helm in 2013. That team went 23-11 before falling to the Tigers in the sectional semifinal.
Taking down Yorktown and Delta will be a monstrous challenge, Batton said, and while it’s something she’ll aim for, it’s not the first target she has in mind.
“First and foremost, we want to take care of the county,” she said. “That’s always been a big goal for the girls. And from what I’ve heard, Mt. Vernon has a pretty strong team. We want to make sure we handle our county rivals before moving on to anyone else.”
To accomplish these goals she’ll look to three-time All-Hancock County player and former player of the year Rachel Irbe.
Also returning to the squad is former all-county player Maddie Wise, among a host of other players whom Batton knows well from her years assistant coaching.
“What I already know about these girls is that they have a love for the game,” said Batton, whose son Zach is graduating from Greenfield-Central this year.
“What I want to know is what their goals are … and how they perceive their potential. Once I know that, we can sort of converge on a plan of attack that’s reasonable for everyone.”
As for her coaching philosophy, Batton said, that will depend on the makeup of the team. But if there is one fundamental pillar she hopes to build upon, it’s stability.
“I’m a great believer in consistency,” Batton said. “It’s crucial.”
Greenfield-Central now hopes she will bring that very virtue to the program.
Volleyball coaching carousel
The faces of Hancock County volleyball continue to change. Batton’s hiring marks the second new coach at county schools approved by respective school boards this spring. Cory Rainbolt officially took over at Eastern Hancock a little more than a month ago.
The county volleyball scene underwent a similar facelift two years ago when three coaching changes were made. The Royals brought in Rainbolt predecessor Kevin Adams to take over for Mike Eastes; current Dragons coach Kelli Whitaker replaced Jerry Saffold at New Palestine; and Wildman succeeded Rouse. A year later, current head coach Eric Bulmahn replaced Kris Lashaway at Mt. Vernon.
Name: Deena Batton
Position: Greenfield-Central head volleyball coach
Family: Stepsons Chad (26) and Tyler (20); sons Zach (18) and Quinton (11); husband Bill.
High school: Morristown
College: University of Indianapolis
Job: Resource teacher at Greenfield Intermediate School
Previous coaching experience: Volleyball and basketball at Greenfield-Central; volleyball, basketball and tennis at Morristown.