By Nick Snow
STILLWATER, Okla. —
The last time the Stillwater High School volleyball team made an appearance in the state playoffs, Ryan Webber was roaming the sidelines for the Lady Pioneers.
Three years later, Stillwater is making a return trip to state under another Webber — Jason Webber.
“It’s been a great honor to fill his shoes and to take pride in a program that he started,” Stillwater coach Jason Webber said. “I take my job very seriously and I coach with great pride to honor him. I give him a lot of credit for the things I’ve learned. He was there in the beginning, did a lot of teaching and a lot of coaching. He was very, very patient with me while I made some very interesting coaching decisions.”
Even though they are not related, it’s their similar coaching styles that has Stillwater back at state for the first time since 2009.
“The same things that we were striving for then, we’re striving for now,” Jason Webber said. “We want to give these girls the best education, give them the highest expectations and give them good, solid principles. Those ideas are the keys to a team sport — you behave like a team and you operate like a team. We work very diligently and very hard every week to make sure that everyone is working together as an organizational standpoint.”
Getting everyone on the same page has been a challenge at times this season for Jason Webber. Like Ryan Webber was when he hired the now Stillwater coach several years ago, Jason Webber has learned just how much patience it takes.
“One of the keys that I have learned from Ryan is, you’re given a set of girls and they’re not always going to do or even be able to do what you want,” Jason Webber said. “But you’ve got to find out what they can do. You have got to go out and find their greatness as individuals and find their greatness as a team. Basically, you have to work with what you have according to what they can become instead of trying to make them into athletes or individuals that they possibly cannot become. You have to work with what you have. I think we’ve done that really well in Stillwater. We work tirelessly to try and find out what each player’s greatness is, and then try to figure out how that will contribute to the overall scheme of things.”
Like any good volleyball match, this season has been full of highs and lows for the Lady Pioneers. But while Ryan Webber may not be on the sidelines any more, the former coach dubbed by Jason Webber as “the true pioneer of Stillwater volleyball” is well versed in Stillwater’s rise back to prominence.
“We actually had an opportunity to sit down the other night and sort of share with each other and reminisce about past years with Stillwater High School,” Jason Webber said. “We just sort of enjoyed the moment with what’s going on currently. It was actually a very emotional time. He was moved by the progress that we have made. During our relationship over the years, he and I have tried to create a great program for these girls and to give them a place where they can grow and thrive.
“It was quite a conversation. He was very proud of what I was doing. It’s hard to fill such big shoes, but it sure is a joy.”
As for Jason Webber, he hopes to continue to carry on the legacy that Ryan Webber started. But where Ryan Webber left off, Jason Webber hopes to carry it one step further with the main goal being a state championship in the near future.
“The key has always been to bring back those girls that were very close to the dream that they had while they were going through school and have them share it with the girls that are coming up,” Jason Webber said. “We want them to show these girls what it means to be a Pioneer. Those girls set the standards and we want to take those standards and build on them as we continue to build our program.”