The lure of coming back to coach in Livingston Parish was something Jennifer Hebert couldn’t pass up.
Hebert, who previously coached softball at Maurepas, has been selected as the new volleyball coach at Springfield High, SHS principal Spencer Harris said Tuesday.
“I always talked about coming back this way,” Hebert said after spending the past eight seasons at Lakeshore in Mandeville. “I love the small town, one town, one team aspect of that small-school feel. Lakeshore’s a great school. The whole St. Tammany system is phenomenal, but (there are) three major high schools in the city of Mandeville. I had great run. The kids at Lakeshore were good. I felt … that I was ready to go somewhere, kind of like pick up a program, just take charge of it.”
“It was very enticing for me to come back to a smaller school and just really start to dig in and let’s build a program here.”
Likewise, Harris said he couldn’t pass up hiring Hebert, whom he’s known since both were students at Southeastern.
“The opportunity came for us to hire Jennifer, and she’s somebody that I’ve known since college and has been successful,” Harris said. “She’s a good volleyball coach, but she’s also someone that does a good job. She works with people, gets along well with people, and I think she’ll do a good job for our schools.”
Hebert, who notched more than 200 wins at Lakeshore and also coached at St. Thomas Aquinas for four total years, replaces Larry Smoot, who guided the Lady Bulldogs to the playoffs in his only season with the team. Hebert coached Lakeshore to the Division II quarterfinals last season, where the Lady Titans lost to eventual state champion Teurlings Catholic.
In an effort to help grow the sport, she’s hoping to expand the reach of her club volleyball team, the Voodoo Volleyball Club, based in Mandeville, into the area with the goal of getting players introduced to the game at an earlier age.
“… This area is just not a big volleyball area,” Hebert said. “Definitely, between Livingston and Tangipahoa, basketball programs, football programs, they’re just so strong. Kids get to play so early, and there’s just not a whole lot of opportunities for them to really play a competitive volleyball game before maybe junior high or in the high school level, so I’d just like to see the whole thing build over in this area.”
Hebert’s familiar with a couple of Springfield players after seeing them play on the club level.
“I watched them play at a couple tournaments last year, and what this area does have is just athletic kids,” Hebert said. “You watch them play basketball, you watch them play softball, you watch them cheer. They’re so athletic. They’re explosive and they’re driven. For me as a coach, it’s just a joy to work with an athlete and teach them how to play volleyball and teach them how to be explosive in different ways. Watching them and you just see the athleticism that they have, that I think that with some experiences a little bit earlier and have a coach come … (and) be here a bunch of years, that makes a big difference. Those athletes are going to become volleyball players, which I like because that’s my job. That’s where I get to come in and take these and go, ‘all right. Let’s go.’”
Hebert, who played volleyball and softball at SLU, said she expects her teams to set common goals and work hard to attain them.
“I think our offense, we’ll teach them how to be a little bit faster, and we’ll bring in some systems with them, but I just think (I want) that excitement behind volleyball,” she said. “If you see it as (a) young (player), people don’t know volleyball’s exciting unless you see it played in good high schools or if you get to see it on TV or something. I want them to see this whole different type of play that I love. Volleyball is just so beautiful and strong and aggressive. That’s what I would hope that when somebody comes to see a game when they leave to be like … ‘Wow! That’s an exciting thing. That’s fun to watch.’”
Harris said Hebert, who is the program’s third coach in as many seasons, will teach media classes at Springfield and French Settlement.
“This will be an opportunity for us to have a full-time person on staff working with our kids,” Harris said. “We have a good program. We’ve got good facilities, good kids. I’m excited to have somebody that I know and trust that I know is going to do a good job as a teacher and is going to make … sure (to have our kids’ best interest). That’s what matters to me.”
For Hebert, it’s also about coming back to Livingston Parish to stay.
“I really was looking for a home,” Hebert said. “This is where I want to finish. This is where I want to go out. Small town. This is, for me, in my head, my heart, where I’ll finish.”