By Adam Baum, Cincinnati.com
Gene Williams never intended to coach his son on the volleyball court, but fate fashioned a different plan.
And fate’s plan was, as it often is, true.
Williams, La Salle’s head coach who recently retired as the head girls’ coach at Harrison, said, “I never wanted to coach him in my life, but what happened was, he was at Harrison and he had played elementary volleyball since he was in the third grade. Well, Harrison doesn’t have a boys high school volleyball team. I tried to start one in the year 2000 and it didn’t go. So, he came home from junior high one day and said, ‘Dad, I want to play volleyball in high school.’
“I said, ‘Alex, that means you’re gonna have to go to a parochial school.’ He said, ‘That’s what I want to do, Dad. I want to play volleyball in high school.’”
Hours before Williams pulled double-duty as father and coach for the Lancers’ Senior Night on May 11, he said, “So, we took him and he did an open house at La Salle. It was the first one he walked through, and he said, ‘I don’t have to go further … I want to go here.’ We signed him up, put all our eggs in that basket and right when school started, the varsity coach at La Salle quit.”
So, Williams made a call to his then assistant coach at Harrison, Wes Post, who Gene convinced to take the La Salle job.
“He said, ‘I’ll do it on one condition, that you go with me.’ Again, I never wanted to do that, but I talked to Alex at dinner one night and said, ‘Alex, I might be your coach at La Salle, what do you think?’ He thought about it and said, ‘Dad, that would be cool.’”
Post maintained the post for two years and moved away.
“Here I am two years later; started with (Alex) as a freshman and now I’ve been head varsity (coach) for the last two years and I absolutely love coaching at La Salle,” said Gene, who plans to continue coaching the Lancers.
Williams watched his son literally grow up on a volleyball court.
“He’s been in volleyball practices since he was in a pumpkin seat,” laughed Gene. “I’d walk him in and set him in the corner of the gym and different girls would take turns going out and playing with him, tossing him the ball, teaching him how to pass it. As he grew up, I ran camps, scrimmages, leagues, he’d be there for all of it. Volleyball has been in his life as long as he can remember.
“I’m harder on him, of course, than probably anyone else and I see more of his mistakes, but I can’t thank God enough for giving me the opportunity to see him play every day and practice every day. My wife, it’s pretty unfortunate because she only gets to see him play in matches. But, I get to see him practice the other days a week and I’m very, very proud of him. I couldn’t be more proud of him. Is he the best on the team? No, but he’s up there.”
Luckily for Gene, Alex isn’t the only kid he cares deeply for on the Lancers.
“This is a remarkable group,” he said. “I have eight seniors. I’ve never coached a team with eight seniors. Of course, all eight can’t play all the time. We’re in the GCL South, which is the toughest volleyball league in the state of Ohio. St. X, Elder, Moeller are top-five in Division I year in and year out, and they usually take turns winning the Division I title. We’re the fourth team of that group and we’re pretty proud of ourselves this year that we at least took a set from Elder, from X both times we played them and one from Moeller.
“We’re still not giving up.”
Outside of conference action, the Lancers have had a great season, going 12-1 in those matches (12-6 overall). This season, though, has been about much more than a record, something Senior Night has a way of illustrating.
“After coaching girls for nearly two decades, in the girls’ sport it’s emotional,” Williams said of the annual senior festivities. “There’s tears. Sometimes they don’t play well. Guys are a whole different animal. It will be harder on me and Alex’s mom. It will be harder on me seeing those seniors and saying goodbye. But, at the end, they’ll be joking around and laughing. My freshmen, sophomores and juniors coming up, I look down the line and I’m very proud of the group that’s coming up. That will give me some comfort when I’m telling Alex and the rest of those seniors goodbye.”