Harker Heights has found its new head volleyball coach and assistant athletic coordinator.

Stephanie Dillard, who spent the last three seasons as an assistant at Magnolia West, will replace Shelly Harris, who spent the last three campaigns as head coach of the Lady Knights.

Jerry Edwards, athletic coordinator and head football coach of Harker Heights, said the school was excited to bring Dillard in.

“She comes from a coaching background,” Edwards said. “Her dad and grandfather were both coaches, so she understands what it takes to be a coach. She’s been a head coach previously, and her husband is a head baseball coach.

“Coaching is in her blood, so we’re real excited to have her join our team here at Harker Heights.”

Dillard had three head coaching stints at Navasota, Huntsville and Rusk. She spent three years at Navasota, one at Huntsville and two at Rusk.

Along with coaching the Lady Knights, Dillard will also be responsible for overseeing the girls athletic programs at the school, as well as a few other sports.

“I’m excited,” Dillard said. “Honestly, I really prayed about it and talked to my husband. I felt like this was something I was meant to do, and I’m really excited to be back in the lead of a program again.”

Dillard’s husband, James, was recently hired as head baseball coach at Bryan. Their family will reside in Bryan, and Stephanie Dillard will commute.

“We have an enormous, amazing support staff,” Dillard said. “We could not do what we do without the family and friends that we have. We have a big support system at College Station and about an hour away from College Station, so I’m OK with the commute.”

Dillard’s hire was unique. She didn’t initially apply for the position.

“That’s kind of how the coaching profession works sometimes,” Edwards said. “Once you have an opening, you start reaching out to your contacts around the state and talking to people. A really good friend of mine, that I have a lot of respect for, had worked with her at Conroe Oak Ridge and had a lot of good things to say about her.

“So, I gave her a call and it all started from there.”

Dillard was a little anxious about the opportunity at first since her husband had just been hired at Bryan, but she was willing to listen. After a few weeks of dialogue, Dillard elected to take the job.

Dillard said she was looking forward to working with Harker Heights volleyball assistant Tracy Guy and getting started with the Lady Knights.

“I’ve met with coach Guy,” Dillard said. “She seems amazing. She’s been coaching for several years and is familiar with the area and the girls. She was able to answer many questions for me.

“From our initial meeting, I feel like we’re going to work really well together, and I’m really excited to get to meet the other two assistant coaches.”

Edwards felt Guy and the rest of the volleyball assistants would be able to make Dillard’s transition smooth.

“You’re only as successful as your assistants,” Edwards said. “I’ve always been told that in the coaching profession, and it’s very true. You’ve got to have good help to carry out the vision of the head coach.

“We have two people on our volleyball staff that were on coach Harris’ staff, coach Guy and coach (Sarah) Cruddas, who is also our head softball coach. They know our program and know the girls, so that’s a huge plus for her coming in.”

Dillard is big on camaraderie, physical fitness and mental toughness, and she’s already liked what she has heard about the Harker Heights netters.

“I’ve been told there have been several participating in the strength and conditioning camp,” Dillard said. “I’m super excited, because I’m big on that. I’ve also been told that a few are multi-sport athletes, which is a huge thing for me, too.

“I think those are your best competitors – players that can get out there and compete outside their comfort zone.”

Veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Previously spent time as sports editor at both the Hereford Brand and the Gatesville Messenger. Graduate of West Texas A&M University.

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