This week’s guest has the North volleyball program trending toward making consecutive playoff appearances for the first time since 2013 and on pace to set the program mark for most wins in a season.
Please kick back and enjoy sports editor Kendrick E. Johnson’s Sunday Spotlight Conversation with first-year North volleyball head coach Libby Rodriguez.
How much did getting off to the best start in program history set the tone for your team this season?
Rodriguez: I think the way we started this year has definitely helped our mindset and work ethic. I didn’t really think much about the number aspect of it, but more about how we were coming together on and off the court.
Describe your emotions when McKinney ISD athletic director Shawn Pratt gave you the call that you were North volleyball’s next head coach?
Rodriguez: I had just gotten back to Lewisville to finish out my day teaching, and I was at lunch duty in the gym. My phone rang, and it was a McKinney number, so I stepped onto the “more quiet side of the gym,” like there is one, to take the call. Coach Pratt, along with everyone else in the interview, were on the other line, and he offered me the job. At that point, I thought I heard him offer me the job, so I got really excited and yelled a little bit in the gym, but then I thought, “Oh, wait, what if I misheard him?”
He reassured me that they chose me, and I couldn’t have been more grateful and excited to start a new journey at McKinney North.
How has your experience as a player and during head coaching stints at Pampa and Lewisville prepared you for this opportunity?
Rodriguez: At West Texas A&M, I learned so much about myself and what I can endure. Having a coach like Tony Graystone, now the head coach at Texas Tech, was like having a second dad who you didn’t want to disappoint.
Being at Pampa definitely taught me a lot. I had some rough spots there stumbling and learning my way through small-town politics, balancing being a mom and really trying to figure out what kind of coach I was.
I absolutely loved my time at Pampa. I had amazing girls and parents, and I would not have been ready to take on a 6A program like Lewisville (without them). Being at Lewisville definitely prepared me for North.
Being the coordinator there, dealing with the administrative side of school and athletics, and balancing my own volleyball program on top of everyone else’s prepared me for anything. Five out of the seven years at Lewisville, the 6A state champ came from our district.
Competition was fierce, so I had to battle every day and make sure my kids were prepared not only skill wise, but mentally, as well. I am thankful for my time at Lewisville. I had amazing girls who bought into what type of program I was trying to implement there, and we changed the reputation of the volleyball program there.
Who has had the most impact on you personally and professionally, and how has their guidance gotten you to this point in your career?
Rodriguez: My whole family is very athletic-oriented. My grandfather played in the NFL and was also an All-American at the same college I was, my mom was a great multi-sport athlete, and my dad was, as well.
So, for me and my little brother, having sports as a big part of our life was a given. My mom and dad have always been huge supporters of me and what I do. They taught me what commitment is and were always encouraging me to do my best. My parents never let me give up on anything and preached perseverance. When I was burned out on volleyball and didn’t want to go back to finish my college career, they told me to suck it up and get in the car, because you are finishing what you started. If they hadn’t held me accountable and challenged me to finish, I would have never been an All-American.
My college coach, Tony Graystone, and college teammate and coach, Kendra Potts, had a huge impact on me. I didn’t really understand how to push my limits athletically until I got to West Texas A&M.
When I got my first coaching job at Pampa High School, I knew I wanted to impact young women the way he impacted me and my life. I am absolutely what I am today because of him and his guidance.
What does your young Lady Bulldog squad have to do to deal with being the hunted, not the hunter, after the outstanding non-district season?
Rodriguez: I think that we have to stay focused on our side of the net. We are constantly self-reflecting as a team and as coaches to ensure that we are doing everything we can to fix, correct and sharpen.
We also have been staying focused on the big-picture goal and what we are working toward. With every drill we do or any skill we work on, we are trying to be intentional about everything on and off the court.
Our confidence as a team continues to grow each game, and it is really exciting to watch.
How much does it mean to you to have the overwhelming support from your husband, Frankie, who is a constant fixture at most Lady Bulldog games, no matter the location?
Rodriguez: He is my rock and the reason why I am able to give so much to my team and my job. He is a huge reason why I was an All-American in college, and all my success as a coach I give to him.
Being the spouse of a coach is extremely hard, as we are gone all hours of the day and night, and our teams and work sometimes – most of the time – come before our own families. He never once has complained about having to cook, clean or pick up and take our girls to school or console me after a loss.
He absolutely loves what I do and wholeheartedly believes in me as a coach. Every night after our games, he is up waiting for me, the house is clean, the girls are put to bed and we just talk about how our match went.
He is our biggest cheerleader, and nothing would make him happier than us making school history.
What would it mean to you on a personal level to lead this program to back-to-back playoff appearances for only the second time in program history?
Rodriguez: Well, I think it would mean the world to me and my girls to know that our hard work is paying off. I think that this team has high ambitions and high standards.
Every time you achieve a goal, it’s satisfying and rewarding. I think, for me, making playoffs solidifies that I am building relationships with the girls and they are responding to what I am teaching.
They are truly wanting to get better and compete.
How big of a deal would it be to go on a deep playoff run and coach the best team in North volleyball history in your first year at the helm?
Rodriguez: I think it is a big deal for the girls to be “that” team that made history and to be able to leave behind a legacy that is the standard for years to come. I am excited to have these opportunities to make memories with a great group of girls and coaches.
My hope is that they are doing the same and growing as individuals along the way.