VANCLEAVE, MS (WLOX) - “Those last couple of weeks, I started looking at everything a little bit different, and looking at the kids different," Haley Chatham, former Vancleave volleyball coach, said. I’m sorry, I’m getting emotional.”
At a time where the only emotion should have been happiness after leading the Vancleave volleyball team to their second straight state championship, Chatham couldn’t help but feel as though the victory was bittersweet.
“I kind of knew that I was probably accepting the position,” Chatham told WLOX.
Chatham was about to embark on a new journey in her coaching career. Pearl River Community College tabbed Chatham as the school’s first volleyball coach, as she will now lead the Wildcats into uncharted territory as Mississippi’s first junior college program - something she’s been talking about for years.
“Mississippi is known for kind of being behind in volleyball, but in the last really ten years, probably more than that, it has just grown so much and so rapidly that it was time for us to be able to take this step, " Chatham said. So I’ve been talking to everybody and the next thing I know I’m going on a job interview to become the first junior college volleyball coach. They (PRCC) are trailblazers. They put a lot into their athletic programs, into their coaches, and into their players. They wanted to be the first and they’re ready to make all this happen, I wanted to do it with them.”
The opportunity will allow doors to open for high school girls all across the Magnolia State who want to continue playing the sport they love while also receiving a free education.
″I feel really lucky that I get to go play at Pearl River because hardly any volleyball players in Mississippi get to go off and play in college," Carly Danley, Vancleave volleyball and Pearl River signee, told WLOX. It’s really awesome that we’re starting at Pearl River. To play for her is just really awesome because we have such a good relationship already. They couldn’t have picked a better person for the job."
Haley Chatham built Vancleave into a contender and will now build Pearl River’s program from the hardwood on up. Chatham says she wouldn’t have made it this far had it not been for her Bulldogs.
“I used to think that well ‘you can be whatever you want to be or you can do whatever you want to do’ was maybe kind of something that people just said to make themselves feel better about situations," Chatham said. This team that I’ve had and gotten the opportunity to coach they’ve really shown me that if you put in the work and you use it for good, you can really do whatever you want to do.”