Assistants get call to fill two Central varsity coaching spots

Wednesday, June 25, 2003

Central head coaching positions in girls basketball and volleyball that remained open for two months after the departure of Sheila Midgett have been filled, the school announced Tuesday.

Outgoing Central athletic director Terry Kitchen said girls basketball assistant Amy Blattel will become the head coach, while former Southeast Missouri State University assistant volleyball coach Maile Gannon will become the school's volleyball coach.

Mike Conner will serve as an assistant to Blattel, a position she held the previous four years under three different coaches. The final two were under Midgett, who will be a girls basketball assistant next year at Jackson High School.

Blattel, a 1990 graduate of Scott City High School, has been the Central softball coach for the past four years and will keep that position.

"I was a little reluctant because of being head softball coach," Blattel said. "I wasn't quite sure if I'd be able to juggle both. I wasn't quite sure if it was going to be fair to the girls if I couldn't. But I thought about it for a long time, and I'm ready to step up."

Blattel played basketball and softball for two years at Three Rivers Community College in Poplar Bluff, Mo., before enrolling at Southeast, where she played softball her final two years.

The Tigers went 15-13 her first two years as softball coach and improved to 24-6 and 25-6 the past two seasons.

Blattel "does a whale of a job with the softball team, and we've always thought she's done a good job with our basketball team," Kitchen said. "So she was an ideal candidate for the position."

Blattel will take over a varsity basketball team that will return just one starter from a 15-11 squad. She coaches a traveling team during the summer that will include many of her players for next year, and she's leading a camp at the high school this week.

Gannon was an assistant at Southeast for five years under her sister-in-law, Cindy Gannon. Maile Gannon served as Southeast's recruiting coordinator and performed other assistant duties.

"It was getting to be time where I was getting exhausted from the travel and the everyday recruiting," she said.

Gannon obtained her secondary education bachelor degree and a masters degree from Angelo State University in Texas, where she played volleyball before a knee injury ended her career. She became a student assistant and graduate assistant at the school, eventually leaving to accept an assistant position at Mankato State in Minnesota.

At Central, she will take over a struggling program that has been a revolving door for coaches. She will be the program's fourth coach in five years. The Tigers are 4-41 over the past two years.

"It's been a very poor program," Gannon said. "They haven't had any consistency."

Gannon said much of the problem stems from the school lacking a junior high program. Central initiated an eighth-grade team for the first time in the 2002-03 school year, and Gannon said she hopes to extend the program to the lower grades.

"I think that's a huge part of building a volleyball program," she said. "You teach those kids the skills at the junior high and by the time they get to high school they'll know the skills. Then you can refine them and teach them more and be more successful."

She'd also like to give the program the coaching consistency that's been lacking.

"I' don't anticipate leaving in two years," Gannon said. "I can't tell you I'll be here for 10 years, but I'm going to stay here long enough to gain consistency."

Gannon will hold a camp July 28 to 31 for grades 7 through 12. She's also in need of an assistant coach.

Kitchen said he hoped to have the head coaching positions filled before the end of school but said he was pleased with the hirings, which will be among his final actions before leaving his position next week. His vacant athletic director position was filled with the hiring of Derek Smith several weeks ago.

"I was wanting to leave and trying to get things done the best I can," Kitchen said, "and get all the positions filled with best people we can get."

jbreer@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 124

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