After ‘storybook ending,’ Perry volleyball coach Mia Thomas steps down (USA)
Nineteen years after she first became a head volleyball coach — and 14 years after she expected to stop being a head volleyball coach — Mia Thomas quietly met with Perry athletic director Scott Campbell and told him it was time to retire.
“I didn’t want to make a big deal out of it,” said Thomas, who stepped down last month after two seasons with the Panthers. “I wanted to ride off into the sunset without a bunch of hullabaloo.”
OK, but a little bit of hullabaloo won’t hurt.
Thomas was hired at Hoover in 1999 when she was pregnant with her daughter, Mollie, and announced her retirement just a few days after Mollie signed to play at Mount Union. In between, she posted 19 consecutive winning seasons with the Vikings and Panthers, including a 22-4 mark this season that saw Perry advance to its first district final in 15 years. Thomas was named the Stark County Division I Coach of the Year, while Mollie was named the county’s Defensive Player of the Year.
“It was kind of a storybook ending for all of us,” said Thomas, whose Panthers fell to Jackson in four sets in the district final. “If I could have scripted the ending I wanted to happen with my coaching career these last two years, from the administration to the parents to the communities to the kids, it was the perfect ending.”
Of course, Thomas expected to finish her career at Hoover, but she was forced out two years ago after leading the Vikings to a 278-115 mark over 17 seasons. When the Perry Board of Education unanimously approved her as the school’s volleyball coach two months later, she told the board members, “I appreciate your faith in me. I won’t let you down.”
Later that night, she got a call on her cellphone from Superintendent Scott Beatty, who told her, “I don’t want you to feel like you can’t let us down. We believe in you, and we think you’ll do a great job. Whatever you do is good, so don’t feel that kind of pressure.”
“It was a gift from God,” Thomas said of the call. “One of the things I’m most proud of is that I was able to get Perry on the right track. Me and my staff and the kids, we left the program a little bit better than when we got it. That feels really good.”
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