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Born to Lead: How Shari Campbell Became One of the Country’s Elite Volleyball Coaches

Sunday, December 20, 2020 @ 12:12 PM

Posted by Nate Steis

shari-campbellFor those who know Shari Campbell, the K-12 Guidance Counselor at Clarion Area High School and Head Volleyball Coach for the Clarion Lady Bobcats, they would likely be quick to say she is a natural born leader.

(Photo by Nate Girvan)

Coach Campbell has been involved in the game of volleyball and has been in education for many years.

The Huntingdon, Pennsylvania native and Huntingdon High School graduate was a standout in high school and went on to play for one of the greatest volleyball coaches of all time, Larry Bock, at Juniata College for two seasons. After her time at Juniata, she became a graduate assistant for Saint Bonaventure for two seasons before coming to Clarion County to become an educator.

“My husband is originally from Clarion and went to Clarion High School,” Campbell explained. “While in my masters, I was a guidance counselor intern in the Clarion Area School District and that is how I first ended up in the area.”

In 1996, Campbell started her club volleyball team for Clarion-Limestone and Clarion Area girls and is nearing her twenty-fifth season of being a club volleyball coach. She has expanded and shifted her club team to include even more girls from across Clarion County over the years.

“My first coaching experience came when I was at Juniata and I was a club coach there. After finishing up there and going to Bonaventure for two years, I was hired part-time at Clarion High School as a guidance counselor. I was also hired at Clarion-Limestone as their high school volleyball coach.”

After three years at C-L, Campbell made the transition to Clarion and became their varsity coach in 1999. In her twenty seasons, she has won two state titles and helped change many young women’s lives for the better. In 2012, she won her first state title and was able to win her second in 2020 despite various obstacles that the COVID-19 pandemic presented.

When asking Coach Campbell what it has taken to build a program as successful as Clarion Lady Bobcat volleyball, she had a lot of layers and people to mention on what makes this program what it is today.

“I am a teacher at heart,” Campbell said. “We are all passionate about something, but you need to use that to engage players to learn to be excellent. I always tell my players your parents do not send you out the door to get a D in algebra, so we are not going to get a D in volleyball either.”

An attitude like this is contagious, and the players buy into her system and the expectations she sets for them and they set for one another.

“Sound fundamentals is another huge part of the program. I am a sound technician, and that really comes from my background in the game. I also believe the players setting those types of goals for themselves is another huge part of the success.” Those goals are theirs, and my job becomes helping them find ways to get there.”

Though all the teams she has coached likely hold a special place in her heart, this team is a little extra special for her as this was her last time being able to coach her daughter, Brenna, before she decides where she will be heading to play in college. The team lost just one single set this entire season and was able to capture the 2020 class A state title. The team played some larger schools again in 2020 and had no trouble beating those teams, as well. Campbell was named one of four AVCA Region 2 Coaches of the Year, and the team was ranked one of the top 10 teams in the AVCA Region 2 area, an area spanning Pennsylvania, Maryland, Washington D.C., New Jersey, Virginia, and Delaware. Campbell also now has over 400 wins in her time as a high school volleyball coach in addition to 16 D9 titles and four total state title appearances.

Through it all, she is quick to thank others who have remained loyal to her and helped her reach these milestones. She has had a pretty consistent coaching staff helping her over the years, and this is a testament to both Coach Campbell and these various other coaches who have remained loyal and consistent in helping these young women succeed. Erika Cathcart, Tracy Durish, and Sam Beichner are three coaches who Coach Campbell gives a lot of credit

Though the 2020 state title run looks like an easy one looking at box scores and recaps, it certainly extends further than that.

“We had a really good Gold Medal Squared camp in August, but then we were shut down for two weeks,” Campbell said. “We as a team came up with a list of uncontrollable things, and we put all those things into a jar as a team bonding experience.”

When the team got to play, they meant business and played every game like it could be their last. This team had the right training, work ethic, and bond to be great.

“I think this team surpassed the closest bond for any team I have ever coached,” Campbell said. “We empowered them, and they digested the resources and training we gave them. What this team went through only made them a closer team in the end.”

Though Coach Campbell spent a lot of time coaching volleyball, she is also in charge of being one of three guidance counselors in the Clarion Area School District. She is also a key member in the school district helping to maintain excellence in the cyber education program this school year.

“It has helped me grow so much and has challenged me as an educator,” Campbell explained. “As long as we can help kids grow during this time, that is what is important to me.”

Through tough times, Shari Campbell has proven she is a go-to person for many in the Clarion community. Her leadership is something to be admired by all. Everyone in leadership roles can look to Campbell as someone who can rally people together in pursuit of success. These attributes are what make her a great coach, educator, and leader in Clarion County. Though she has accomplished a lot already in her career, there is still much more left she will accomplish.


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