James Minney has served two stints as Sherando’s head volleyball coach, first from 2002-07 and from 2014 to the present.

Minney has a career record of 170-106, including a record of 105-40 from 2002-07. During that time, Minney guided Sherando to three district titles, four region tournament appearances and a Group AA state runner-up finish in 2005, which is the only state finals appearance in program history.

The Warriors went 27-2 in 2005, topping an undefeated Waynesboro team 3-2 in the state semis (the Little Giants beat Sherando 3-0 in the Region II final) before falling to Cave Spring 3-0 (25-10, 25-17, 25-10) in the state final. Cave Spring was in the midst of a stretch of four state titles and five state final appearances in five years.

That Sherando team was led by senior middle hitter Erika Dirnagl, whose 574 kills that year have only been surpassed by four players in Virginia High School League history. Dirnagl went on to become the first player in Bridgewater College history to be named First Team All-Old Dominion Athletic Conference four times.

In Minney’s second stint, he guided Sherando to a regional berth in 2015. His most recent team in 2019 went 13-9 (9-5 in the Class 4 Northwestern District to place third) and advanced to the district tournament semifinals.

Minney was also the head JV coach and a varsity assistant from 2011-13. Minney previously coached JV basketball and was an assistant track & field coach in charge of the jumpers, and he also helped with middle distance.

Prior to Sherando, Minney coached volleyball, basketball and flag football at Thompson Junior High School in Bakersfield, Calif., from 1986-1995.

Minney is a 1981 graduate of Gilmer County High School in West Virginia. Minney competed in football (kicker and offensive guard), track & field (competed in the 200, 400 and long jump), basketball (two years as a forward), baseball (one year, as an outfielder, pitcher and catcher) and wrestling (one year, the 145-pound class as a sophomore).

Minney played football as a kicker at Glenville State College, which he graduated from in 1985.

Q. What are your favorite memories as an athlete?

Minney: I had fun. Every sport that I played in, I enjoyed the camaraderie and the people I played with. I participated twice in the state track meet in high school, in the 400-meter and mile relay.

Q. When did you know you wanted to be a coach?

Minney: Pretty much when I was participating in high school sports. I had a good football coach [Bob Horning], who was also my track coach and wrestling coach, and I enjoyed working with him and how he handled things, and what he did. He conned me into doing wrestling that one year, which was the sport I liked the least. I did it because he was a great coach. I don’t regret doing it, because it was great strength training. I had a good basketball coach [Kent Kennedy] and enjoyed him, too.

I’ve always enjoyed sports, playing them and coaching them. Over the years, if someone has asked, ‘Can you coach this sport?’ and I wasn’t doing anything, I’ll say, ‘Yeah, I’ll coach it.’ If I need to work on studying the sport, I like that aspect of it, too, researching and following the sport.

Q. Who are your biggest coaching influences?

Minney: I’ve worked with a lot of good coaches over the years. Nicki Galante, she’s the one who got me started in volleyball [in California]. The school needed a seventh-grade volleyball coach. I told her I had never seen the game before, but I got into it and really enjoyed it. She was good at coaching and teaching it, and it’s been my favorite sport since.

Q. What’s the best coaching advice you’ve received?

Minney: Get to know the players. Don’t go out there like you’re a robot. Get to know them on a level where you can find what motivates them and what doesn’t. I think a lot of coaches hear that from other coaches. I think Nicki was one of the first ones who taught me that, because I was fairly new, I was right out of college. I didn’t have a lot of coaching experience, just a lot of playing experience.

Some of the coaches I played under were old school, where you treat everybody the same and everybody does the same thing. I realize now that that doesn’t work. That was an eye-opener when I moved to California, when she said you’ve got to get to know your athletes before you try to coach them. Because they’re all different. You can’t talk to them all the same way.

Q. What have been your most difficult coaching moments?

Minney: Some of the most difficult moments I had were [at Thompson Junior High]. There are some tough areas in California. In basketball one year, I had a girl who was unbelievable. When we came back from Christmas break, I asked where she was, and she was in a juvenile institution because of an incident with her mother. She was in a bad situation. Her mom was a drug addict. She was such a good kid and hard worker, and was a tremendous basketball player. We didn’t have a lot of those situations, but there were some. It’s tough.

Q. What have been your favorite coaching moments?

Minney: The team I had [at Sherando] that went to the state playoffs, they were good, solid kids. They got along. That was probably one of the best teams I ever had as far as getting along with each other. There was no animosity. They played the game. They didn’t argue.

Sometimes, you have situations where players can get spiteful, and if the attention is not on them, they can get catty, and they quit performing. But those girls, Erika and them, they just rolled. They played and didn’t let things bother them. I’ve had a few teams like that, but you don’t get a lot of teams like that.

Compiled by Robert Niedzwiecki

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