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New coach: ‘I eat, breathe and sleep this game’

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McDannold to share his passion for the court

By John Herndon

If Jason McDannold won the lottery while a volleyball match was going on, he’d probably miss out on counting his cash. And it would explain why he thinks he’s hit the jackpot in taking over the sport at Anderson County High School.

“I eat, breathe and sleep this game,” says McDannold, who was recently hired as Corey Sayre’s replacement. “I love this game. I just love it. I love coaching. I fell in love with volleyball and I love coaching it.”

McDannold’s enthusiasm resembles that of an old-fashioned preacher leading a down-home revival. But unlike every other program the Versailles native has led, Anderson County is a long way from needing a wake-up call. Sayre has turned over a strong program that won 19 matches last fall and advanced to the Eighth Region semifinals for the first time in history.

And most of the key performers return in 2009.

“I think this team has a lot of potential,” McDannold says. “I am really excited to get them in the gym.”

Those standards are the ones that any new coach would would utter. It’s a fresh start and everything looks rosy. But with McDannold, the tone is genuine and the reasons are authoritative.

Even though he was out of coaching, McDannold saw the Lady Bearcats in action in 2008 when he returned to Kentucky after living in the Miami-Ft. Lauderdale area of Florida for six years.

“I moved back and was officiating,” he says with a smile. “I actually called several of Anderson’s games last year.

“They have a lot of potential,” he repeats. “When I saw them play, they were able to read the court and they passed the ball so well. They seemed to be confident. They have the potential to be very good.”

McDannold’s resume says he has an idea of how to oversee a good team. In eight years as a head varsity coach, he’s posted a 230-105 record at four high schools and one college. At Lexington’s Paul L. Dunbar High school, his teams won two city championships and made a pair of state tournament appearances.

It was at Dunbar, that McDannold got to know Anderson principal Ray Woodyard, who was serving as assistant principal at the Lexington school while McDannold guided the Lady Bulldogs.

McDannold also spent two years at Midway College, where he turned a moribund program into a pair of 20-win seasons.

“I love this game and I can teach this game,” says McDannold, a former basketball and baseball player who was introduced to the sport while working for the Woodford County Parks and Recreation Department.

At Anderson, he’ll juggle coaching duties with his day job managing the landscaping department of Bluegrass Rental and Sales, located near Alton.

Currently, the team is involved in conditioning and some open gym sessions before the dead period starts on June 25. When tryouts begin on July 15, McDannold will be putting his stamp on the program, drawing his experience and the his coaching influences. He says former Kentucky assistant coach Tonya Johnson, now at Texas, is a close friend and mentor.

“We will be defensive-minded,” he says. “On offense, we want to have quick sets up the middle. We will have a very sophisticated offense.

“If you can pass the ball, you can do anything.”

McDannold says Sayre built a good foundation. “He built a strong feeder program,” McDannold said, referring to the Anderson County Middle School program, coached by Bobby Hardin.

But McDannold wants to take Anderson volleyball to a new level. Even though the Eighth Region is strong with the three Oldham County schools being dominant over the years, McDannold says, “I want to go to the state tournament.”

It is a goal that is never easy.

“I don’t want to give the girls false hope, but I want to go to the state tournament. But to do that, you have to work hard, play hard every practice, every game.”

He knows his team could be very good, but there might be some rough spots along the way. McDannold invokes the name of the only person in Kentucky who might match his enthusiasm, Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari. “It is kind of like the dribble drive,” he smiles. “The kids will be learning a new offense and defense.”

And learning, perhaps, to eat, breathe and sleep volleyball.

E-mail John Herndon at jpherndon@theandersonnews.com.