OGDEN — When a new coach of any sport comes into the fold, one of two things seem to happen on a results basis.
Either the team struggles and the coach emphasizes patience with the new way of doing things, or the first year is vastly better for a collection of reasons.
Ogden High’s volleyball team experienced the latter with new head coach Brad Hulse in charge this season.
Coaches of any sport talk ad nauseam about buying into a new team culture, new standards, etc., but actually getting the buy-in to happen is a trickier process.
“But before they buy in, they have to see that success right?” Hulse said in an interview in his classroom at Mount Ogden Junior High. “I wanted to try and build the schedule where they could see that early success and I just preach to them that, ‘Hey, bottom line is I want you to compete. Every time you step on the court, give me everything you got.’”
In the 2018 season: six wins.
In 2019: 13.
Hulse is the 2019 Standard-Examiner All-Area Volleyball Coach of the Year.
Hulse is a familiar name to the prep volleyball scene in Weber and Davis counties, coaching as an assistant at Clearfield before head coaching stops at Roy and Weber.
He hadn’t planned on returning to the head coaching circle until Shauna Haney, an administrator at Ogden High and a longtime friend, reached out and talked to him about potentially coaching at OHS.
Coincidentally, Hulse just changed from teaching at Highland Junior High to Mount Ogden Junior High, just down the street from OHS.
Hulse is highly regarded by many in the high school volleyball circle but gave an exceedingly humble answer when asked what he did with the Tigers’ team this year to kickstart the team’s best season, wins-wise, since 2011.
“I don’t know if there’s anything that I really did,” Hulse said. “I walked into a great situation. I had a group of seniors that were just eager and willing to learn, and I have to give them a lot of credit for letting this new coach come in, and coming in with a completely different defensive scheme. We changed the complete defensive tone of what we were doing and they were open to everything that I asked.
“Offensively I asked them to do a lot of things they hadn’t done in the past and challenged them to try different things, and they were great with it. Then I also had four freshmen that those seniors opened their arms up to.”
Tactically speaking, Ogden mostly used a rotational defense in lieu of a perimeter defense. Where a perimeter defense is exactly what it implies — positioning the defenders on the perimeter — rotational defense is geared more toward limiting the effectiveness of off-speed shots and tips.
He praised the team for not only accepting the tactical changes, but for also embracing each other.
“It was a great mix between just the seniors I had that were willing to listen to this new coach, willing to take in these four younger (freshmen) to come with them, and then the four freshmen that just dealt with the pressure and the challenge I put on them every day,” Hulse said.
It’s unfair to pin blame on any one person or thing for the poor results recently at Ogden High. The fact is, it’s hard to win at OHS.
There aren’t streams of kids showing up for tryouts who all play club volleyball, like at most schools in the state.
Hulse said there’s less than a handful of club players on Ogden’s team, hence playing two non-region tournaments to get the team used to the kind of chaotic environment that one finds at Utah Valley University during the state tournament.
The goal this year, Hulse said, was to advance past the state tournament play-in game (Ogden beat Logan to get to the actual state tournament at UVU), which the Tigers did, losing to No. 3 seed Ridgeline in the first round.
Going forward, the goal is to win a state tournament match and advance, and see what happens from there. But there’s one aspect of the season that still lingers with Hulse.
He thought the Tigers were right in the thick of things a lot of times, even leading Ridgeline 17-13 in the first set of their state tournament match, but couldn’t finish the job.
“We’ve learned to fight, but next year we’ve got to learn to finish the fight,” Hulse said.