In March of last year, an overwhelming flood of emotion surfaced inside all the members of the Blue Valley volleyball team. They were informed their beloved head coach Jessica Palmer had announced her resignation.
“When I realized Palmer was leaving, I was initially shocked,” senior Lexi Kuharich said. “When she called me, it was out of nowhere. I was sad because I loved Palmer as a coach and a teacher.”
Sophomore Mary Hastert was confident she knew who would be replacing Palmer.
“I believed that our assistant coach [Dave Johnson] would get the job,” she said. “I knew he had the trust of the players and the trust of the parents.”
Hastert was correct.
Johnson was chosen to be the head volleyball coach.
He had spent many years with the program and had more than enough volleyball experience.
“I played college volleyball in Wichita, Kan. at Newman University,” Johnson said. “ I was the captain of my team for three years.”
He played in the National Championship game his senior year, but lost. He also played professionally in the sand for a couple of years.
Johnson was also recently admitted into the Hall of Fame at Newman University.
He received his first coaching opportunity in 2005 at BV.
“I had just gotten done playing college volleyball, and I wanted to coach,” Johnson said. “A friend of mine, Mr. [Keil] Pittman, who was the head volleyball coach at the time, gave me my first coaching job.”
Johnson started coaching the sophomore team and later became the varsity assistant coach.
Hastert said she was glad Johnson was the new coach because she knew he could really contribute to the program.
“I was excited because I didn’t have to start over with someone new,” Hastert said. “I knew he was going to make it a difficult season so we could improve.”
Kuharich said she finds Johnson and Palmer’s coaching techniques similar in the sense that they are both intense coaches.
“They want to win just as much as we do,” she said. “They both know what we are capable of and want to see that transferred onto the court.”
Johnson said the team this year plays a “Dave Johnson” style of volleyball. He teaches them to play with an aggressive technique.
“I teach them to play like boys,” he said. “I hold kids accountable.”
Kuharich said Johnson knows what he’s doing and has benefited the program.
“He knows how to help out each position and knows what we need to succeed,” she said.
Kuharich credits Johnson for a lot of her success last year in volleyball. She said he gave her faith to become a better player.
“Last year I went from sophomore team to varsity, which was a big jump,” she said. “He helped me everyday and trained me with my footwork and everything. He has invested a lot of time into our team in helping everyone get better.”
Hastert said she has high hopes and expectations for this years team.
“I expect us to do better than we have in the past,” she said. “I feel like as the years go on, we get better and better, and this is the year we could go all the way to State.”
Johnson said he hopes to teach his players many important lessons by the end of the season.
“I hope to teach them to never stop hustling,” he said. “If you work hard in practice, it will show in the games.”