The Philomath High School volleyball program will have a new coach next season with Denee Newton’s recent announcement that she was stepping down to focus on her career in education.
Newton compiled a record of 70-40 in five seasons as the head coach. The team qualified for the state playoffs each year except for the pandemic season. The Warriors placed third at the 2019 and 2021 state tournaments.
“It was not an easy decision,” Newton said. “It’s something that’s been on my mind but I started an admin program about a year and a half ago and I’ll be finished in June with my license. There are some question marks about what that means career wise and I just feel like it’s a good time maybe to step back.”
Newton said she made the decision now to avoid putting Philomath in a difficult position with hiring a replacement.
“I didn’t want it to be in July and do a last-minute leave and put them in a really tough spot in terms of finding someone to take it on,” she said.
Newton announced her resignation following the season at the team’s awards event.
“It certainly wasn’t easy for me, just giving up something that I put some time into and I have hopes that just continues with whoever takes it on,” Newton said. “And I’m pretty actively inserting myself into that process.”
Newton finds parallels between administrative work and volleyball coaching.
“I really feel like there’s just so much that can be done when you get to work on some systems,” Newton said. “And I found that I really feel pretty passionate about some of that work and that’s been volleyball, too.”
A former junior varsity coach at South Albany, Newton was hired by Philomath in 2017 to replace Joyce Stringer.
She was a high school volleyball standout at Crook County during her playing days. After graduating from the Prineville school in 2001, she continued to play at Western Baptist College (now Corban) before knee surgery derailed further advancement in the sport.
Newton’s last Philomath team made a bit of history by reaching the Class 4A semifinals this past fall as a No. 13 seed.
“It’s been on my mind for quite some time and I was just thinking about when would be the right time,” Newton said about stepping down. “I don’t know if there is a right time. … It felt like, hey, we had a good season and accomplished a lot of our goals and graduated six seniors so it seems like maybe it was an opportunity to be able to step away.”
Newton believes the program is in good shape.
“I think they’re going to be OK, you know, I have no doubts,” she said. “There’s lots of ability there and a pretty good little culture of kids and I think they’ll carry on that culture and teach it to the youngers.”
Newton said she told Athletic Director Tony Matta that if he isn’t able to make a hire and she’s still at Philomath, she would fill in on an interim basis.
Newton currently has no plans to leave the Philomath School District.
“I don’t have intentions to leave but I may have to at some point if I need to find an administrative job and Philomath maybe doesn’t have one to offer me,” she said.
Newton may not be stepping away from volleyball coaching entirely.
“I may be looking at Gold Medal Squared and doing some coaching through them … and traveling a bit and working with other programs,” she said. “That’s something that is on my bucket list to do.”
Gold Medal Squared is a worldwide program that features top volleyball coaches that lend their expertise to help players through camps and other coaches through clinics.
Newton said that as long as she’s in Philomath, she also plans to volunteer with the Philomath Youth Activities Club as a coach.
“If they want me to run a camp, I’m happy to do that,” Newton said. “I’m going to do whatever I’m asked; I’ll stay connected for sure.”
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