Brenda Gray is the current head coach of the volleyball team at Sam Houston State University and is one of the longest-tenured coaches in the university’s history. Since Gray took over in 1984, the program has moved from Division II up to Division I in 1987, has finished in the top four in the Southland Conference 19 times including three first place finishes and has two NCAA Tournament visits.
Even with all these accolades, this year is a whole new challenge for her and the entire volleyball program at SHSU.
“It was real disheartening, but we can’t control the things we can’t control,” Gray said.
When the SLC announced the cancelation of all conference sports, Gray and the team were disappointed, but they understand the gravity of the situation and know how to do what they can.
“In the beginning, we believed we were going to be competing this fall,” Gray said. “It could keep us safer. We are going to do a lot of team bonding, training, softball, ultimate Frisbee and team dinners. We will do a lot of competition this semester.”
It was especially disappointing for the team because of last year’s finish. After finishing second in the Southland Conference, the team was knocked out of the SLC Tournament in the championship against rival school Stephen F. Austin State University.
The team is hungry and ready to come back this year to compete, but have faced several obstacles since trying to begin.
“Once you’re in the gym, the transition seems seamless,” Gray said. “But transitioning didn’t make it feel easy. Volleyball is set up where you come in during Summer II in July, most girls will take a class. We could not do much till the start date, which was July 6.”
The team has adapted their normal operations to make up for new challenges.
“We now have a board with everyone’s jersey number and coaches’ initials where you move magnetic pieces over to show who is there,” Gray said. “Everyone has a different need. We had to meet on the coliseum floor with social distancing, it was odd. I think everyone knows this is the way it is.”
No matter what is going to happen or when they will be allowed to play again, Gray knows that her team is going to be prepared.
“We train for results,” Gray said. “We have a lot of players returning and a strong overall team, so we feel confident in going forward. We will be ready when the time comes.”