Durant alumni Molly Settles to take over as the next head coach for the Durant volleyball team.
Durant alumna Molly Settles will take over as the newest head coach of the Cougars’ volleyball team this upcoming season.
While the sport has grown into an integral role in Settles’ life, she had never played a single point of volleyball when she first arrived at Durant as a freshman.
“When I first started we were actually at a basketball practice during summer conditioning my freshman year,” Settles said. “The volleyball coach recruited my sister and I because we were tall and athletic so we started our ninth grade year, fell in love with the sport and I’ve never left.”
As freshmen, Settles and her twin sister Amanda joined the junior varsity volleyball team, eventually becoming a vital part of the 1999 varsity team that won the school’s first ever state championship before moving on to play four more years together at Georgia State.
“I think that her resume speaks for itself, and not that she’s going to use that to validate her position at all, but it speaks to that,” principal Gary Graham. said. “And the girls that were a part of our program last year when Coach Settles helped out, I think they understood that and understood that she was once a player in their same position. And she also understands, she had never played a point of volleyball before she entered into high school. Of course it helps that she’s right at six foot tall, that helps a little bit, and she’s pretty athletic, but she can take those raw kids that have never played volleyball before. It’s nice to have that club experience and middle school experience, but she’ll also reach out to those other kids as well and do a lot of teaching, which is needed with our program.”
With three state championships in program history, Durant volleyball finished last season with a 7-9 record and will enter next season in search of their first winning record since going 10-9 in 2017.
“It’s very exciting for me,” Settles said. I’ve coached several different schools and clubs in the area but coming back to Durant is a whole different feeling because I went there. Coming back to my alumni school is kind of a different, thrill-seeking feeling than coaching the other teams, so I think that’s cool. I’m really excited to get them working in July. We’re going to get them conditioning and see what the future holds, hopefully going in the right direction, getting them back on track and having a winning season.”
Settles joins Claybo Varnum as yet another alumni and former student-athlete that has recently taken over as a head coach at Durant. Varnum immediately began helping with the football program after graduating, later joining the staff as a teacher and continuing to serve as an assistant coach before taking over the football program prior to last season, leading the Cougars to an 8-3 record and an appearance in the regional quarterfinals, the team’s highest single-season win total since 2016. Graham pointed to the unique culture at Durant as they continue to see former student-athletes return to give their time and effort as teachers and coaches.
“I think it’s more than kind of cool, I think it’s something that I can’t turn away from,” Graham said. “I don’t ever have to question their commitment, their investment in Durant High School. Whether they played on a state championship team or were just a part of our culture here at Durant, they know the expectations whether it’s on the field or on the court, but more importantly off of it. A good coach will probably make the difference in some wins and losses during the season but a great coach is going to make the difference in lives. I’ve already seen that in some of the things that Coach Varnum has been able to instill in these young men and I know that Coach Settles will have the same effect. They’re building citizens that will continue beyond Durant, whether they play football or volleyball or whatever at the next level or not. That’s important to these coaches but what’s more important to these coaches is what they’re doing off of the court, how they’re representing their school, how they’re representing their family, and I know that’s front and center in both of their minds. We’re proud to have them come back to Durant to give… Just to have that commitment from the Alumni, it’s immeasurable.”
Settles calls Durant a “family experience,” which is fitting both literally and metaphorically as she added that her daughter will be entering her sophomore season with the Cougars’ volleyball program and that she’s excited to help give her a similar experience to the one she had when she was a student-athlete.
“I think it’s just a real family experience. You want to go back and watch football games, you want to go back and watch volleyball games, even if you don’t have kids there. Just building that family experience, I would say, is huge.”
In the past, Settles has coached at Plant City High School, Spoto High School and spent seven years as an assistant with Newsome High School’s program before heading home to Durant as an assistant last season. Now named the program’s next head coach, Settles has the opportunity to take over and help grow a program that she played a part in building.