Hooper named all-tournament|
Tuesday, July 24, 2007
By Kevin Hageland, Staff Writer
PLANO - Being a high school coach can involve a lot of pressure. But after spending the last two years training and working as a firefighter and emergency medical technician, pressure is nothing new for Plano Volleyball Head Coach Jennifer Cron.
Cron was hired to replace Rhonda Rust, who coached the Lady Wildcats for two seasons but resigned to take over the new program at Clear Springs High School, located outside of Houston.
“We ran an extensive search and Jennifer was best qualified for the job,” said Gerald Brence, Plano football coach and athletic director. “We were really impressed with her.”
Cron has had an extensive volleyball career, both playing and coaching, but left the high school level during the past two seasons to pursue a different profession.
“My entire family is made up of teachers, but I have always wanted to be a firefighter ever since I was a little girl,” Cron said. “I wanted to see if that could be a reality or if it was just a pipe dream.”
And so Cron began her training to become certified in fire and EMT work. Cron described the experience as physically demanding, but added that it was a lot of fun and she enjoyed the team-like aspects involved with the job. And although Cron continued to coach at the club level with the North Dallas Juniors, as an assistant with the Red 16 Team, something was missing.
“I missed coaching, and being away from the game made me realize how much I loved it,” Cron. “Even when I wasn’t coaching, volleyball was never far from my mind.”
In the last month, Cron submitted her resume at Plano, went through the interview process, was hired and had the opportunity to meet with her new team.
“It all happened so quickly, but I am very grateful for the opportunity,” Cron said. “I think Plano hired the right person and I’m ready to get going.”
In Cron, the Lady Wildcats will be getting a coach that has accomplished a great deal of success in Texas. Cron went to Garland High School, where she garnered all-district, all-area and District MVP honors. Cron also received the Gale Field Award in 1993, which goes to a graduating senior that displays high standards in academics, athletics and citizenship.
From there, Cron attended Sam Houston State University, where she received a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology in 1996. During her time with the Bearkats, Cron played middle blocker and received all-conference accolades and was named Conference Player of the Year.
After graduation, Cron stayed at Sam Houston State and served as an assistant coach while she pursued a master’s degree in psychology. Cron got her master’s in 2000 and remained with the Bearkats through the early part of 2001.
That’s when Cron returned to the Metroplex and accepted her first head coaching position, taking the helm for North Garland. Cron would only spend one season with the Lady Raiders though, as Cron described girls athletics at the school as, “A bit of a mess at the time.” Although Cron left in 2002, she was quick to point out that the Lady Raiders have progressed a long way since that time.
Cron spent the next three seasons as the varsity assistant and head JV coach at Arlington High School. And while Cron spoke positively of the Lady Colts program, she said after three years she didn’t feel as though Head Coach Sue Cauley was any closer to retiring. That is when Cron left the high school level to pursue her firefighting dream.
But now that Cron realized her dream was to coach volleyball, she is ready to make an impact at Plano. Cron said she held an introductory meeting with her new players Wednesday.
And although Plano, which appeared in the regional finals two years ago, is losing four players to graduation, there are several returning Lady Wildcats that saw significant playing time in 2006. Seniors Christina Krone, Mary Elizabeth Hooper and Hillary Bryant, as well as sophomore Christie Groh return to a squad that went 7-7 in District 9-5A last season, just missing out on the last playoff spot.
“This is one of the toughest districts in the state. It is going to be terribly difficult, but luckily we are blessed with a lot of talent,” Cron said. “I told the girls to dream big; if they give more, they can expect more.”
However, Plano will have to be aggressive this summer, as with the timing of the hiring, Cron said the Lady Wildcats are a step behind with off-season workouts.
“I’m going to be here for the girls all summer, so they have a chance to see my face and we can get to know one another,” Cron said. “Everyone in our district is going to expect to make the playoffs, so it falls on our players to want this program at the top.”
After summer workouts for the returning varsity and JV players, Plano will hold tryouts Aug. 6 and continue preparing for the 2007-08 season after that.
“I’m very excited about the new position,” Cron said. “But there is a lot to do.”