Olympia Volleyball Coach Laurie Creighton Builds a 35 Year Coaching Legacy



By Sara Hollar, Olympia High School Intern to Thurston Talk

salish cliffsMost coaches aim to teach their athletes how to play the game but Laurie Creighton wants to leave a more lasting impression on her players. The Olympia High School varsity volleyball coach can often be heard telling her girls that they will be people much longer than they will be volleyball players. With that message, her whole program is centered on fostering good attitude through high level sports.

olympia volleyball laurie creighton
Olympia High School head volleyball coach, Laurie Creighton, has been guiding the team for 35 years.

“I think sports can be a metaphor for life and they can prepare young people for the challenges they will meet in life. And I think the right environment in sports can teach character and discipline.” Creighton says. She aims to give the girls in her program the best experience possible to send them off stronger than they came in.

This 2013-2014 season will be Creighton’s 35th season coaching, a huge milestone for the volleyball program. Over her many years of coaching Creighton has learned new things, not only about volleyball, but about communicating with teenagers and how to motivate her players. When asked what the best part of coaching is, she says, “For the volleyball part, it is watching players improve and seeing a team come together and reach their potential. For the off the court part it’s seeing the players grow personally and gain confidence.”

To Creighton, being a good coach is not just teaching her players how to do well in a game, it’s guiding them through the tough high school years and beyond. Each year the program creates ideas to focus on throughout the season such as unity or commitment. These values help the athletes to be their best, on and off the court. In addition, retreats, team dinners and just riding the bus together helps the players bond to create a family.  The trust that develops plays a key role in Olympia’s success in games. It’s great for the players to know there is a place where they are supported and needed.

olympia volleyball laurie creighton
Creighton discusses strategy with her team during a time out at the match against Tumwater on October 16.

Over her 35 years of coaching, Creighton’s team has gone to Districts and State many times, even winning the State tournament twice, in 1998 and 2011. This legacy creates a reputation of excellence for the Olympia High School volleyball program. Through her long coaching career, different teams have filtered in and out. There have been some years with amazing players and other years with teams that work extremely well together. Each season has had its definitive traits and difficulties as well as victories. Still, Creighton couldn’t pick a season as her favorite. “Everyone would expect me to say the two seasons that we won state championships and those were, without a doubt, very special. But this is about people and there were some very rewarding seasons because of the people involved. And some rewarding seasons because we reached our full potential even if that wasn’t a state tournament appearance,” she says.

So many girls go through the program that it’s hard to form personal relationships with each one but Creighton tries her best. Proof that she succeeds is the fact that her former players keep coming back. Some just drop in to say hello or help out with practice. Others act as coaches during Olympia’s volleyball summer camp. A few are guest speakers for the program meetings that are held on Fridays during practice. Former players love to visit their old gym and teammates even though many lead very busy lives. Currently there are six former Olympia High School volleyball players who are playing collegiately including three 2011 state champions.

olympia volleyball laurie creighton
OHS’s 2013 Volleyball team with the trophy won in the annual match with rival Capital High School. (Photo by JK Photography)

As this milestone season continues Creighton is as devoted as ever. She stays late many nights to review game footage, help players or make sure the gym is ready for game day. The most difficult part of the job does not come with the extra time or effort though. “There are a lot of different kinds of challenges. The volleyball part is finding the right way to connect with a kid so they will improve, because everyone learns differently. For the other part it’s getting kids to commit fully to something bigger than themselves,” Creighton explains. Yet, even when things get rough she’s never wanted to give up. “There’s never been a time when I felt like I wanted to quit. There have been times when I’ve questioned my effectiveness.”

Even after all these seasons Creighton still finds joy in coaching and it shows in her team on and off the court. While she may be having just as a good a time as she was her first year, her coaching style has certainly grown. “People change with experience. I’m probably a way better coach now than when I started because I know more about volleyball and people. Experience is the best teacher. But I’m still doing it because it’s still a life-giving thing for me. I’m still having fun even though it’s very challenging at times,” she says.

For Creighton the goal is her players leave her program as better people in addition to better athletes.  “I want them to know that life can be short, so if they’re going to invest in something, invest fully and be the best person they can be.”


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