SIDNEY — It is never easy to say goodbye.
Especially after you have had a coaching career like Lehman Catholic volleyball coach Greg Snipes.
Snipes recently retired after a 23-year career where he won almost 500 matches and three state titles.
He won regional titles and advanced to the final four six times, to go with an incredible 20 district titles and 22 sectional titles.
He finishes with a career record of 492-147.
“I don’t know that there is ever a good time (to decide to retire),” Snipes said. “But, I was able to make it through my daughter (Alexis Snipes) four years. The tough part of this is I was close to the junior class that is coming back for their senior year next year. But, I got a job opportunity that just wouldn’t allow me to have the time to coach next year. It wouldn’t have been fair to the administration or the players.”
Snipes will be working for BSN Sports.
“It is an opportunity I have been hoping for,” Snipes said. “They are the largest sporting goods company in the United States. They put the coaches and the athletes first, which is something I have been looking for.”
Snipes had been Lehman’s JV volleyball coach for two years, before taking the varsity job in 1996.
“Of course, I had high goals and expectations,” Snipes said. “But, you are never really sure what is going to happen.”
It didn’t take long to find out.
Lehman advanced to the Division IV final four under Snipes in his second season in 1997, the only time in his teams six state tournament appearances the Cavaliers would not advance on to the state championship match.
Moving up to Div. III in 1998, the Cavaliers advanced to the state title match before losing to Archbold. They had won a state semifinal in three sets, including posting the first and third ones by 15-0 scores, though Columbiana Crestview won the second (there was no rally scoring then, and matches were best of three sets).
The players were excited when they came into the interview room, because they had an agreement with the coach that they got a pizza party for every 15-0 win.
“Two pizza parties,” numerous players said.
Snipes wasn’t so sure about that when asked about it minutes later.
“They lost the second set, so we will just have to see,” he said with a smile.
That is the kind of relationship Snipes always had with his players — like the time he agreed to let them give him a new hairstyle if they won the state championship.
That first state title came in 2000 in D-III, the first of two Lehman teams to go 30-0 — and it was almost anticlimatic compared to his next two state champions.
“That was a team that just had everything,” Snipes said. “I know the second set in the championship match (against Huron) was 16-14, but you knew (we were going to win). Winning that first state championship was huge.”
After finishing state runner-up to Huron in 2002, the Cavaliers won a second state title in 2005.
And while the state championship match against Newark Catholic was five sets, the real drama came in the regional final.
Marion Local was serving for the match at one point in the fourth set, before an amazing comeback by the Cavaliers.
Once again in 2010 — against much bigger odds — it was the Flyers standing in the way in the regional finals.
A Marion Local team that was coming off three straight state titles and had handed Lehman its only loss of the season.
Lehman not only won the match — before going on to cruise in the two matches at state — they did it in three sets, setting off a wild celebration at Tippecanoe High School.
“Sometimes with the state championship teams, it wasn’t necessarily the state championship matches,” Snipes said. “It was the journey getting there that created the most memories.”
Snipes also founded what is still one of the most successful JO volleyball clubs in Southwest Ohio in Team Atlantis.
Many of the top players in the state have been a part of that program.
Snipes coached many teams to high finishes at nationals as he reached and impacted countless volleyball players who went on to successful college careers at the highest level.
“I remember when I started, there were hardly any club teams,” Snipes said. “Now, they are all over the place. I plan on continuing to run Team Atlantis. And I still give volleyball lessons 1-on-1.”
He isn’t ruling out having a different role on the Lehman bench next season.
“I am still hoping to be there some on a volunteer basis,” he said. “We will just have to see how things work out.”
He is thankful for the opportunity to coach his daughter the last four years.
“To see where she was as a freshman and see how much she progressed,” Snipes said. “She had the opportunity to play with several schools (in college), but she decided to go to college and have fun, which is fine.”
Right now, he is excited about his new opportunity with BSN Sports.
“I just made the decision (to retire from coaching at Lehman) last week,” Snipes said. “But, I have been in contact with a lot of the coaches through my job with BSN Sports. They told me they are going to miss me on the sidelines, but happy they will still be working with me.”
And Snipes knows his life wouldn’t be the same without the sport.
“I have met so many families and so many of my close friends now through volleyball,” he said.
Which is why it wasn’t easy to say goodbye.
Contact Rob Kiser at (937) 451-3334 or firstname.lastname@example.org