Oak Harbor and Coupeville high school athletes will be greeted by new coaches in three sports this fall.
Crista Carlson is the new cheer coach at Oak Harbor High School, and at Coupeville, Troy Cowan heads up the soccer program and Kirsty Croghan now leads the volleyball team.
Taking over a highly successful program can be intimidating to some, but Carlson, the new Oak Harbor High School cheer coach, sees it as an honor.
Pam Headridge built the Wildcat cheer squad into a state power, then Robin Gohn continued the excellence.
Now it is Carlson’s turn.
Carlson, a 2007 graduate of La Conner High School, cheered for the Braves for four years and was team captain for two. She has coached at La Conner for six years, including last year when she began teaching special education at Oak Harbor Middle School.
With a teaching job in Oak Harbor and an opening in one of Washington’s premier programs, Carlson left her alma mater to help with the Wildcats.
“I really look up to Pam,” Carlson said, “and I have had the opportunity to work with both Pam and Robin.”
“Everyone wants to coach in Oak Harbor; they would be crazy not to,” she said. “It is an honor, and I am excited to follow Pam and Robin.”
Carlson said she will not mess with an already winning formula, but the team will have her stamp on it.
“I am not them (Pam and Robin); I don’t want to be them,” Carlson said. “We will have our own style.”
She said, for example, she would like to do more with the young cheerleaders in the community: “The young kids look up to the older kids, and I want to take advantage of that platform.”
The team has always been active in the city, and Carlson wants to continue that trend: “Cheerleaders are often the most visible (high school) team in the community, and it is our responsibility to represent the high school and do what we can for the community which does so much for us.”
With those objectives in mind, the squad attended a summer camp at Central Washington University July 29 to Aug. 2 that taught both cheer and leadership.
“We are trying to build character skills,” she said.
Oak Harbor won a spirit stick at camp, and two Wildcats, junior Juliet Aspery and freshman Sarah Bellis, earned all-America nominations.
Cowan’s trip to becoming the head coach of the Coupeville High School girls soccer program followed an unusual route.
Most coaches compete in their sport as youngsters and on through high school, and some continue in college. Eventually they slide to the sidelines to guide others.
Cowan didn’t play while growing up in Riddle, Ore., though he did kick the ball around a bit in pickup games during his days in the Navy. He fell in love with the sport as his children did.
He said, “I was never one of those parents who just wanted to sit around; I wanted to get involved.” Cowan said all six of his children wanted to play, so when they first signed up, he volunteered to coach.
He has been heavily involved in island soccer since, a span of 15 years.
The youngest, Aiden, is continuing the trend. He is 6 and has already played four seasons.
Troy Cowan coached recreational soccer for about 10 years and has been the U15 girls select coach for the Islanders the past four. The team includes his daughter, Bailee. He is currently Director of Academy for the North Whidbey Soccer Club and has served as vice president for the Whidbey Island Youth Soccer Association.
Cowan retired from the Navy in 2008 and recently earned his masters in education in June and would like to teach high school English. Coaching a high school sport, he said, ties in nicely with his career goals. When the Coupeville coaching job opened up, he applied.
Through work with the Islanders, Cowan said he is “familiar with some of the Lady Wolves and their parents.”
He said his goal is to take the team “to the next level.”
Coupeville mustered only one win in each of the past two seasons, and never more than four in the past four.
The goal, he said, is to make Coupeville “a little more competitive,” and he has some “training ideas” he believes will help make that happen.
“I am hoping to implement a new formation and some new strategies that will make a difference in the game,” he said.
He added, “We need to work on improving our touch.”
This summer Cowan ran a voluntary running and conditioning program.
He said, “It is important to be in shape when you start. You can’t win if you can’t breathe.”
He said that his philosophy is “if they give 100 percent, regardless of the score, they are winners.”
Cowan said he is trying to send a “positive vibe” about the program and get a large turnout.
A strong nucleus returns from last year’s squad, he said, and that group will be a good foundation to build around.
Croghan, a 2006 Coupeville High School graduate, always knew she would come back.
This fall she returns to lead the Wolves’ volleyball program.
“I love the island,” Croghan said. “Who wouldn’t want to come back and have the opportunity to coach and be a part of the program that meant so much to them? It’s an honor and a privilege to coach at Coupeville High School.”
She added, “The first day of summer practice in the high school gym was awesome. It was like going back to high school volleyball. It is nice to be back.”
Croghan will replace her high school coach, Toni Crebbin, who stepped down last season after 20 years of coaching.
Croghan played volleyball at Skagit Valley College for two years and then went directly to coaching.
She began her coaching career at LaVenture Middle School in Mount Vernon, moved to Anacortes Middle School and then to La Conner High school where she was the junior varsity coach and varsity assistant for three seasons.
She also coached club volleyball in Anacortes and La Conner.
With school and club volleyball, Croghan has coached year round for the past three years: “If you can’t tell yet, volleyball is my life and my passion.”
She said she went into coaching because she is “super passionate about not only coaching volleyball but teaching young ladies that anything is possible if they just believe in themselves.”
She added, “I may be young, but I have had the opportunity to learn from some of the greatest coaches in the business and have learned that coaching is so much more than coaching. I get to do two things I love; it really is the perfect job.”
Croghan said her goal for Coupeville is “to do the best we can.”
“This translates to wanting to make it back to state again,” she said. “It is going to take a lot of hard work and time. We may not make it right away, but I believe in having very high goals and expectations of the girls. When they achieve something they never thought was possible, it is life changing for them.”
She said the season will be a success if her players work hard and enjoy the experience.