In the end, Larry Smoot’s volleyball knowledge was too much for Springfield High to pass up.
Smoot, a veteran coach with college, high school and club-level experience, is the Lady Bulldogs’ new head coach. He replaces Miranda Lobell Walters, who resigned and has been accepted into LSU's School of Dentistry.
“That’s what made it attractive was that he’s a volleyball guy and this has been his life’s work is coaching volleyball,” Springfield principal Spencer Harris said. "It's just really rare to find somebody who’s a volleyball coach around here."
Smoot, who coaches a number of Springfield players with the Louisiana Volleyball Club, was the head coach at St. Thomas Aquinas in Hammond in 2017 and was an assistant coach at Southeastern from 2013-15. He spent last high school season refereeing volleyball. He also coached the club team and taught lessons.
"It's a good group of kids," Smoot said of the Lady Bulldogs. "They work hard. They, for the most part, pay attention. They're improving a ton this summer.
"They're all getting better," Smoot continued. "There's a lot of brand new players, first-year players, and they're learning the game from scratch, but they're coming along."
Smoot also served as an assistant coach at Loyola Marymount, helping the team to 11 postseason appearances and three conference titles.
"I teach fundamentals," Smoot said. "That's the biggest thing I do. When I was at Loyola Marymount, we were competing against all the top teams in the country, and for us to beat them when we first started, we had to get good athletes that weren't necessarily yet good volleyball players, so that's how we kind of came into the national spotlight there."
In the high school ranks, Smoot coached the boys and girls volleyball teams at Torrance (Calif.) High School. He was also owner and coach of the South Bay Girls Volleyball Club and the Torrance Volleyball Club. Smoot also coached the 2016 Louisiana Volleyball Club to a fifth-place finished at the AAU National Championships in Orlando.
Smoot, who was hired at the end of the school year, takes over for Miranda Lobell, who coached the team while attending Southeastern Louisiana University and was accepted into dental school. Harris praised Lobell’s effort in coaching the team.
“Your head basketball coach or head football coach can’t be a volunteer coach, but in volleyball they can, so that’s something we’ve had to utilize the last few years …,” Harris said.
Smoot, who said he started coaching volleyball at 19-years-old, said he accepted the offer to coach the team after mulling it over.
"I don't want to do anything halfway, and it's a big commitment this time of year, and I'm glad I did," he said.
Smoot said he's still getting familiar with players' skill sets, but he said they're buying into his system.
"That's what I really like about this group is that overall, they listen, they try," he said. "There are some kids who get discouraged when they don't pick it up right away, and (we're) trying to get them past that and trying to think of a positive way to get to the next level, to the next skill.
"My goal is to have them to be a very tough serving team -- an efficient serving team because you score a lot of points in girls volleyball off of your serve and to play a very aggressive defensive style," Smoot continued. "I told the girls for the last couple days when we're working on defense, my two most important rules are that you don't choose to let the ball hit the ground, and my second-most important rule is you don't choose to let the ball hit the ground. In other words, go after it. Sometimes it is a simple game. If you can keep the ball off the floor and put it on the other side, it's hard to beat you."
Harris said the gym floor is being re-done, and part of the renovation will include putting lines down, making space for two courts going in the opposite direction on the school’s existing main court.
“We’re adding a layout where we can put a couple of extra courts and stuff to help him train and do some things there where they can actually set up two courts going sideways,” Harris said. “He’s got a lot of girls out for volleyball. He does a lot of training, and for us to be able to maybe have some tournaments, and do some bigger things with volleyball in the future, we were able to add that second additional court just to help us.
“I think that it’s got a chance to grow,” Harris said. “We’ve got a lot of interest with our younger girls and through him that our volleyball program, I think, can be strong for years to come.”