SPORTSBEAT by Peter Jakey: Coach Watson heading for 500th career win

Steve Watson
Steve Watson

3819-Watson-trophyCoach Steve Watson closes in on 500 wins

Steve Watson has no problem telling anyone that when he started coaching Onaway volleyball in 2003-2004, he did not know much about the sport. He was a willing student of the game.

Watson pledged to put in the work and followed through. He watched the premier programs north of M-72 such as Rogers City and Pellston and wanted to emulate that kind of success in Onaway. When the two schools played each other in a district game, he recorded the match and studied it. He attended clinics, watched videotapes, and with trial and error, the Cardinals’ volleyball program got better and changed the banner in the northwest corner of the gym. 

When Watson started coaching, there was only one conference title up on the red banner. It was updated during the summer and reflects the latest regional championship of 2018. The three is the most of any program at Onaway High School. 

After 17 years, the student has become the respected professor, who is closing in on an elite coaching mark.

Watson is only two wins away from the 500-win plateau and they could come this weekend at the tough Morley Stanwood (MS) tournament this Saturday. 

The coach could already be at 500 if it was not for the tough tournaments they go to like MS, but it’s going through the grinder and taking a few on the chin that has made them better. It’s what is coaching idol Tom Izzo does to make Michigan State better in men’s basketball. It’s what he wants for Onaway.

“Steve has transcended our program to an elite level, not just in our area and conference, but at the state level,” said athletic director Marty Mix. “With numerous district and conference titles, regional championships and state final run appearances, he consistently finds ways to bring team after team to a unique level of success.”

It’s two final-fours, seven districts and five conference titles. The Lady Cardinals almost made it to a third final-four in 2018, taking Carney Nadeau to five sets, before losing 9-15. So, it’s a close third.

“Now that I have been to the final-four, I want another one,” said Watson. “But as the kids keep changing, I want it for them. I want them to experience it…it’s

kind of a life-changing moment for a lot of kids. Regardless of what happens. You’ve punched your ticket to one of the most important athletic events in the state. It’s special.”

At the heart of Watson’s drive to make the program better is his competitive nature. “I try to convey that to my players,” said Watson, back in his classroom, less than an hour after a hotly-contested battle with Inland Lakes.

“When I started coaching, all I wanted to do was make us better. I wanted to win more than we lost and I wanted to get where we could beat teams that we weren’t able to beat before.”

Best of luck to coach Watson as he is poised to make some more history in the community.