By Angela Wallace
For 20 days, the anticipation mounted, but after being named BYU?s newest women?s volleyball head coach Thursday, Jason Watson has taken a sigh of relief after his uncertainty turned into excitement.
After serving as interim head coach for nearly three weeks, athletic department officials announced that Watson will take the reins as BYU?s fourth head coach after completing three seasons as the program?s assistant coach.
?The offer was made [Wednesday], and I accepted it [Wednesday] evening,? Watson said. ?I was surprised. When they did make the offer, I felt incredibly humbled to be in charge of what I think is one of the best programs in the country.?
With this new task, Watson will soon begin his 12th year of coaching collegiate volleyball and couldn?t be more excited to continue coaching at BYU, where he started both his college volleyball career and coaching career.
?It?s special coaching at your alma mater,? Watson said. ?It?s what I?ve always wanted to do. When I first started getting into coaching as a graduate assistant, the goal was always to put myself in a position to come back to BYU and coach in some capacity, ultimately as the head coach.
?My wife graduated from here at BYU, and I hope my kids graduate here. This is for us home. I?ve never had a passion to coach anywhere else than here.? Along with earning All-American honors as a Cougar from 1990-1994, he became BYU?s all-time assist leader (4,649) and single-game assist record holder after posting 128 assists against Hawaii during his junior season.
After his collegiate career came to a close, this Homebush, Australia, native stayed in Provo for two more years to begin his coaching career under former U.
S. Olympic coach and two-time NCAA Coach of the Year Carl McGown.
Now with another chance to stay at BYU and coach, Watson said his family also shares his excitement.
?They?re very excited to stay, and they know how much this means to me,? Watson said. ?They have been wonderfully supportive.?
After uncertainty and stressful waiting, the women?s team also voiced their excitement when they were informed in a team meeting yesterday.
?I think everyone is really excited,? said Lauren Richards, BYU?s returning setter. ?We all gave him a hug and his family. It was a good atmosphere. Going into the meeting, no one knew what to expect, but we wanted Jason. I?m really excited. Our team did a good job of working together and nobody complained. We?re a family.?
The first order of business for Watson is to head to the Las Vegas Classic for the first recruiting off-campus trip this year with former assistant coach Brooke Huebner, who has agreed to stay on as the recruiting coordinator. After working with Watson this past season, Huebner said she looks forward to keep helping him with recruiting.
?I am just thrilled to have the privilege to keep working with Jason,? Huebner said. ?He?s a great leader for this team. I have great respect for him. We leave tomorrow for a club tournament that all coaches go to. Hopefully, we?ll find some new Cougars.? After evaluating the 2006 recruiting class this weekend, Watson plans to return to Provo to find assistant coaches that will bring a similar focus to his staff with the help of the athletic department.
?I think we?re going to work in conjunction to create a pool to find people who are a good fit and share our vision,? Watson said. ?We would probably start considering next week sometime. Right now, the focus is on recruiting, and then, we?ll make some contacts.?
As if Watson doesn?t have enough on his plate, official team practices will begin for the Cougars next Tuesday. After weeks of individual practices, the team will get their first chance this year to play together since the 2004 season ended.
?We?re very excited to start,? Richards said. ?We?ve had a good couple of weeks in individual workouts and have gotten stronger. We?ll work just as hard with some different goals in mind, but we?ll still have a very competitive atmosphere.?
Watson brings his experience after impacting programs as an assistant coach including Kansas State, Arkansas State, Montana State as well as BYU. At the helm of a highly successful program, Watson said he?s excited and ready to lead.
?I think it?s a wonderful step up,? Watson said. ?I?m excited about it. I reached the point where I probably should consider stepping into the role as a head coach. I feel very fortunate to be able to do that here. Over the course of my career, I?ve felt that I have had increased responsibility in all of the schools I?ve been at. I think I?m in a position now to lead this program.?