CHAPEL HILL — When Amanda Gough joined the “Volleyball Play in the Triangle” Facebook group just after moving to Raleigh last month, she never expected it to lead to her first head coaching gig.
Then, after just a few short weeks, Dena Floyd came searching.
Floyd, the athletic director at Woods Charter School, sent out a post to the group asking if anyone would be interested in becoming the Wolves’ next head volleyball coach.
And Gough jumped on it.
“She had just posted information (in the group) and said anyone interested (in the head coaching job) that had experience coaching or working with kids and was really passionate about volleyball should email her,” Gough explained to the News + Record. “I just happened to scroll past it and thought, ‘This could be a great opportunity.’”
Gough said she originally joined the adult volleyball group to find a community to play with in her new home, connect with other players about open gyms and maybe, if she was lucky, find a school where she could help out as an assistant coach.
But on July 15, two days after reaching out to Floyd, Gough was officially named the next volleyball coach at Woods Charter.
The athletic department’s social media accounts made it public on July 18.
“Welcome Coach Amanda Gough, our new Varsity Volleyball Head Coach!” the Instagram post read. “Amanda brings experience as both a player and previous coach. We are excited to have Amanda on board, as she is immensely passionate about volleyball and coaching.”
Gough steps into the role previously held for four seasons by Scott Green, who accepted the head volleyball coaching position at Seaforth this summer. Green amassed a 22-48 record during his time with the Wolves, the highlight of which was last year’s 18-4 campaign, which saw Woods Charter turn a major corner and reach the third round of the 1A playoffs.
Despite her lack of head coaching experience, Gough said her ability to lead others — having worked on specialty coaching drills with her old club team after graduating college — and teach the fundamentals of volleyball will go a long way.
And of course, the passion she has for the game doesn’t hurt, either.
Gough’s volleyball journey started early in her middle school years in Centreville, Virginia, a suburb of Washington, D.C., with a population of a little more than 74,000.
There, she became interested in the sport and decided to take a couple of volleyball classes, which led to her joining a 14U club team when she was just 12 years old, choosing to play a bit out of her age range.
As she soon came to find out, it wasn’t easy.
“It was a little hard being so much younger than everyone else,” Gough said. “Starting out and having to go through that age jump, it really gave me a better sense of how to be more mature and become a leader. It kind of instilled those skills in me.”
As much as Gough was drawn to volleyball for its fundamentals, its skill curve and its competitive nature, she also used the game as an escape, a way to calm herself from the hustle and bustle of middle and high school.
“When I started picking up volleyball, it was just very freeing to play,” she said. “I felt like I could go out and just have that relief of everything else in life. I could just focus and hone in on volleyball. I didn’t have to go and be worrying about all of the tasks I had to do, all of the high school drama in life. I think that’s why I was really passionate about it.”
Throughout middle school, she bounced around between a few different club teams, playing a multitude of positions, including defensive specialist, libero and hitter.
But once she got to high school, she found her home with a club called Southwestern Youth Association (SYA), based out of Centreville, where she began to play as a setter.
“I had the same coaches the whole time and they were great,” Gough said. “They motivated me. I acknowledged them as family and I played setter the whole time. It allowed me to really be a leader.”
For her final two seasons, Gough acted as the team captain for a squad that made it all the way to the Capitol Hill Volleyball Classic in Washington, D.C. — a USA Volleyball seeding tournament hosted over President’s Day weekend that features more than 1,000 teams from across the nation — during her junior and senior years.
“We actually ended up taking second place one year and third place another year, which was a huge accomplishment,” Gough said. “A lot of people don’t even get to see the medals there, so that was definitely a proud moment.”
Once her high school days were behind her, Gough’s volleyball career took a backseat to academics.
While studying at Virginia Tech from 2017-21, she had a double-major in biology and criminology, leaving little time for her to pursue volleyball besides the occasional open gym or intramural game.
After graduating in 2021, Gough was itching for a change of scenery. That’s when she decided to move to Pensacola, Florida, where she stayed for a year before moving to Raleigh so she could be closer to her family in Northern Virginia.
With volleyball being a major part of her life, part of settling down in Raleigh was that she needed to find a way to get on the court as either a player or a coach.
Cue “Volleyball Play in the Triangle.”
In her first season as a head coach, Gough is inheriting a team stacked with talent.
Woods Charter is coming off of its best season in program history, having won 18 games, including the Central Tar Heel 1A conference title game over Chatham Charter, and made it to the Elite Eight, dropping a close one to Neuse Charter on the road, 3-1.
While the team is losing six seniors, it still has all-conference athletes Maya Sheridan and Lexi Smollen — also the Central Tar Heel Player of the Year — to act as the backbone of a young nucleus that Gough said she’s excited to lead, even if it will be a learning experience for her and the team.
“I know that I’m going to have a lot to learn as a coach,” Gough said, “but I feel like (Dena Floyd) and her whole team is very supportive in every way.”
Gough said that her coaching style will primarily be individual-focused, catering to the needs of each individual player rather than having a cookie-cutter approach for all of her athletes.
If a player is more receptive to a supportive, gentle coaching style, that’s how she’ll approach them. But if they need extra motivation through tough love or constructive criticism, she’ll go there, too.
“I just really want to make it a good experience for the girls,” she continued. “I had great coaches growing up, especially with my club team. They really motivated me and it was a place where I could come to practice and get rid of all the stress from the day, so I didn’t have to worry about it and just have fun. … I want to be able to give that same experience to the girls while also helping build their skills.”
Before the Wolves’ season-opener against Franklin Academy on Aug. 26, Gough said she and the team have a lot of work to do, which includes open gym sessions like the one she hosted on Monday.
But when you’re passionate about the sport, she said, it rarely feels like work.
“I’m honestly just excited to be back in volleyball,” Gough said. “I’ve been going to open gyms, but it’s not been competitive play. Even just being able to be right there on the sidelines and coach these girls and cheer them on as they’re doing what, hopefully, they love is going to be amazing. … It’s going to be an amazing feeling to be a part of that journey.”
Reporter Victor Hensley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @Frezeal33.
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