A year later, the decision looks like a good one. Last fall, Spanish Springs did fail to qualify for the regional tournament for the eighth straight year, but the Cougars only missed out on a playoff berth after losing a tiebreaker. The SSHS spikers put up the best record in the program’s brief history and they were relevant for the entire season.
“Having coached with Frank in football before I became the athletic director, I knew the type of coach he was and how educated on sports in general he is,” Spanish Springs athletic director Art Anderson said. “I knew he would immerse himself in volleyball once he secured the position.”
Sandomenico made the Cougars’ football program respectable after starting it from scratch and now he’s trying to do the same with Spanish Springs volleyball. He has immersed himself in the sport and the local youth community. The SSHS history teacher has held multiple youth camps for elementary and middle school athletes in the Spanish Springs valley. He is also teaching a volleyball class this summer for high-school age kids. It gives student athletes the chance to improve their volleyball skill set and earn school P.E. credit.
“I just thought I’d take the same approach as I did with football,” Sandomenico said. “The first thing I thought was I should do the summer school class. The kids go three hours a day, three days a week for six weeks. We did it in football. I thought why not do it in volleyball too? It’s really nice because it gives the kids a P.E. credit and since it’s a class, there’s a little bit of accountability too since they’re working for a grade. It’s easier to get a good turnout because the kids can come during the day and go to softball or whatever else they play at night.”
While the high school class is held in the middle of the day at SSHS, Sandomenico also has clinics for middle school girls and elementary age girls in the late afternoon and early evenings.
That’s a lot of hours in the gym this summer. The Cougars volleyball coach is definitely dedicating his time to improving the volleyball product at Spanish Springs.
“I spoke to a parent of one of our incoming freshman. Her daughter’s only opportunity in recent years was to go to camp at Reed High School,” Sandomenico said. “Their camp is fine, but we should try to get our kids out here to come to our events. That wasn’t an option for young kids out here before.
“It’s not only great to build a program, but it also serves as a fundraiser as well and we can get the high school kids to help. It’s a win-win situation for everybody.”
Holding summer school classes and youth camps throughout the year is not a revolutionary idea. Many high school coaches across northern Nevada do the same thing. Spanish Springs just had not had a volleyball coach in the past who worked to host the events.
“This is absolutely what I expected when we hired Frank to be our volleyball coach,” Anderson said. “This kind of turnaround is absolutely what I expected. I think he has a great personality and great interactions with student athletes.”
The Cougar coach’s hard work is paying dividends just in sheer numbers.
“We have a lot of interest now,” Sandomenico said. “The turnout for our (elementary) camps, between both sessions, has been about 70 kids. Then there are 25 for our middle school camp and another 50 for our high school class. That’s a lot of kids out there playing volleyball.”
While Nevada’s high school volleyball season is held in the fall, the Washoe County School District holds a spring league for its middle schools. The difference in seasons allowed Sandomenico to get involved with the volleyball program at Shaw Middle School, the main feeder school for SSHS.
“My assistant coach, Corrine Moffat, was coaching the eighth graders at Shaw this past spring and she kind of had to talk me into it. I didn’t think I wanted to coach that level of kid,” said Sandomenico, who wound up taking over Shaw’s seventh grade team. “Then I really loved it and it proved really beneficial. I kind of followed the example of our high school basketball coaches, who have gotten involved at Shaw.”
Spanish Springs had some growing pains in the initial years of its athletic program. While programs like girls basketball and baseball reached the Northern 4A playoffs as early as the school’s third year of existence, and have been back multiple times, other programs took longer to achieve any success. Volleyball remains the lone team sport at Spanish Springs that has not earned a postseason invitation. Sandomenico hopes to change that. Will all the offseason hard work of he and his staff pay off?
“I’m not sure it will right away,” he admitted. “I got hired just over a year ago and it’s all happened pretty fast. I think it will be on down the line before we see it pay off at the varsity level. But it will help us.
“Our girls are ready to turn this around. Volleyball in the past here has never been something we took pride in. It was just done for fun. We want to create a program that matters to people and I think we’ll get there sooner rather than later.”