There is a word constantly used today that has a variety of meanings: success. Success is truly in the eye of the beholder. When it comes to coaching, it can equate to either an impact homerun, or just an unfortunate strikeout. The best coaches realize success goes far beyond wins and losses. John Wooden once said, “Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best you are capable of becoming.” While Coach Wooden was known for his 10 national championships at UCLA, his legacy extends far beyond the basketball court. He was successful on the court, but he also made an impact in each of his former player’s lives. Coach Wooden understood what real success meant, so does TFA Volleyball Coach, Haley Malone.
Coach Malone grew up in South Florida and graduated from Palm Beach Gardens High School. She attended FSU (Florida State University), where she earned her degree in math education, which she calls “unexpected.” After graduating from FSU, Malone remained in Tallahassee for three years teaching algebra at Leon High School. While teaching at Leon, Malone was sought out by Hall of Fame coach Joy Becker, who offered Malone a position to coach the freshman volleyball team. After coaching under Becker for a year, she coached under legendary volleyball coach Angie Strickland, where she was part of the team that won the 6A state championship in her second year. Malone took away valuable tips during her time under coaches Becker and Strickland. “They taught me how to be who you are as a coach, and having a common goal in developing your team and developing your player,” Malone said. “That is what ultimately led to me wanting to continue my coaching career.”
After finding success at Leon as an assistant coach, another opportunity came for Coach Malone. Lindsey Hurlebaus, who was the head coach for TFA’s volleyball team at the time reached out to Malone to offer her a position. Coach Hurlebaus went to Leon High School herself and played volleyball under Coach Becker. Coach Malone joined TFA as a math teacher and was on the coaching staff for the volleyball team that won their 5th consecutive state championship. The next year, she took over the Volleyball program and has not looked back. “This was a position I wouldn’t have put myself in as a coach or a math teacher,” Malone said. “I think that the Lord led me to both of these things.”
In the world of sports, coaches hold high power, and with that power comes great responsibility. Sometimes, the responsibilities are so great that the joy of coaching is lost. But for Coach Malone, coaching is an opportunity to make an impact beyond volleyball. “I see the opportunity that I have to mentor young women,” she said. “I have the chance to mentor them to be a wife, a mom and a good citizen.” This mindset helps to shape the goals that she has for her players. “I love to see growth in each player,” she said. “Sometimes it’s skill-based, sometimes it’s not. The goal is to establish confidence in each player so they can see growth in themselves.”
There is a great deal of pressure that comes with being the head coach of a team that won five state championships in a row, especially for a young coach. “My first year I was naive to the pressure and intensity,” she said. “It wasn’t until my second year that I felt the pressure.” The Lady Royals achieved great success under Coach Malone during her first year as head coach; making it to the final four and finishing as a state runner-up. However, many people did not think the Royals could match the success they achieved in previous years. “People started to negatively speak on the program,” she said. “It fired me up in a not-so-good way, and it caused me to second guess everything instead of trusting the process.” For Coach Malone, the stress she dealt with was actually a blessing in disguise, and she became the better for it. “It took me another year of coaching to realize that I needed to be myself instead of being someone I wasn’t,” she said. “The stress reminded me of who I was, and it helped me become a better Christian.” Coach Malone also realized that her players feed off of her, and she wanted to set the best example for them that she could. “If I react poorly to stress, anger or a loss, it will be picked up by my players, and I don’t want that,” she said.
Coach Malone has very effective methods of coaching that helps her team buy in to what she’s teaching them, bringing them closer together in the process. “I believe in team bonding and the effectiveness that comes from an efficient practice,” she said. “I try to keep it fun, keep it light. I don’t want them to come to practice and be bored, they should have fun and be excited.”
When it’s all said and done, volleyball doesn’t last forever. However, the legacy that you leave behind can last forever. “I want my legacy to be of a coach who gave everything that she could,” Malone said. “Maybe not the most knowledgeable, or having the best coaching resume, but when it comes to loving the girls and being a woman of Christ, those things are unwavering. I would hope that everyone would have a positive view of not only myself, but most importantly our program.”
Being a coach is what you make it. Your priorities, your mindset and your faith will determine the amount of joy that you have, regardless of how successful you are in wins and losses. Having a true confidence and identity goes a long way. Coach Malone’s best advice for coaches is to “have a strong view of yourself so others can’t change it. You need to have a clear definition of the coaching style you have,” she said. “So many people will try to change the way that you do things which isn’t always the best option. Trust what you know and believe in it. Be intentionally prayerful for your kids and what you believe in, and that will define your coaching style.”