Craig Scott is a man in motion — constant motion — as he works his way, clockwise, around and around the Santa Ynez High School volleyball court.
Every few steps, Scott pauses briefly to offer advice to his players on the Pirates’ varsity and junior varsity boys volleyball teams as they work on digging, setting, passing, hitting, defensive and serving skills.
There’s an urgency to his message.
The team has just three weeks to get ready for its season-opener on Monday, Feb. 25, against Morro Bay, and they’ve been practicing with several key players missing.
“We started practice last week and we’ve had only five or six varsity boys coming out to practice while we’ve waited for the basketball and soccer seasons to finish up,” said Scott, the Pirates' new head coach. “Once we have a full squad, we’ll be okay.”
The team was also hit hard by graduation.
Seven seniors graduated and one junior, Evan Thompson, transferred over to Dos Pueblos.
“So we’ll be a young team,” said Scott. “We’ve got two returning starters. Nate Rogers and Harrison Bradley will be the core. But we’ll have nine or 10 freshmen and sophomores. They give us some great prospects down the road but we have to get their skill levels up quickly so they can handle varsity competition.”
There will be some significant ‘firsts’ when the Pirates finally hit the court.
It will be the first season Santa Ynez competes in the Channel League.
Entering its 30th season of competition, it will also be the first season with someone other than Chip Fenenga roaming the sideline.
“Chip started the program and coached it for its first 29 years. I know I have some big shoes to fill,” said Scott. “But Chip is still at Santa Ynez teaching and he’s been very willing to help, especially with the administration side of things.”
Scott, 49, has been playing or coaching volleyball most of his life.
He began in high school in Newfoundland, Canada — the eastern-most part of North America and a mere 4,600 miles from Santa Ynez.
He played college volleyball for the Memorial University Sea-Hawks in St. John’s, eventually earning his PhD in Geology.
“It’s actually a PhD in Volcanology, basically the study of volcanoes,” said Scott. “Although people confuse it with Vulcanology but it has nothing to do with Mr. Spock and Star Trek.”
After earning his doctorate, Scott moved to the United States, eventually settling in Santa Ynez.
“I definitely got away from the Canadian winters,” said Scott.
Scott taught geology at the college level for 10 years, including a year at Colorado College, several years at Cal State Northridge and Cal State Fullerton and five at Santa Barbara City College.
He’s now an environmental consultant and, in addition to his environmental and coaching work, Scott is also an active member of Santa Barbara County's Search & Rescue Team.
“I love teaching and I love teaching the game of volleyball,” said Scott.
Scott is well known to the valley’s volleyball family.
“I coached at the Santa Ynez Charter School for the last eight years and have been coaching club teams in the valley for the past four years,” said Scott. “We’re starting up a branch of the SoCal Volleyball Club in the valley soon although I think we’ll be starting with just a girls team. We hope to start a boys team later. They’ll definitely help us build the kids’ skill levels for the future.”
With so many new players, Scott has his work cut out to build his own successful program.
“We going to design a system that fits the players so we can get the most out of the players we have,” said Scott. “I don’t believe you should try to bend the players to fit some predetermined system. For us, with a younger, shorter team, we’ll focus on defense. If we play good defense, we can compete especially against the Channel League schools that are all bigger than Santa Ynez High. The Santa Barbara schools all have club programs that we don’t have yet so we’ll have to concentrate on the basics — good, tough serves, good passing and taking advantage of whatever weaknesses we find in our opponents. If we can play within our abilities, I think we’ll have a lot of success.”