FORSYTH – Mallory Richardson didn’t have to think twice when the volleyball coaching opportunity at Forsyth High School came open.
Volleyball is in Richardson’s blood, even before she starred (as Mallory Boone) at Branson High School, then played at College of the Ozarks.
She was at Crane High School for her first post-college job, as a counselor. She also coached the school’s junior high and high school volleyball teams during her two years there.
After moving to Forsyth, she worked as a volunteer coach under coach Katrina Gockley last season. When Gockley left after a 12-12-2 finish last fall, Richardson jumped at the chance.
“I think I just love the game,” Richardson said during a break in a recent summer camp session at the school. “I didn’t know I was interested in coaching, I just knew I loved volleyball and wanted to continue coaching.
“I’ve had a lot of great coaches along the way through the years, and they really influenced me. … That helped me become the person that I am, and I want to give back to this community.”
There’s another connection with Richardson and the Forsyth athletic community: Richardson is married to Forsyth baseball coach Byron Richardson.
That partnership can pay dividends on both ends.
“I definitely like working with my husband,” she said. “Working in the same building, it’s been nice to be able to talk to each other if we need to vent about different things at different points.
“I know I always have someone in the building who I can trust, and it’s the same for him with me. … Even though baseball is totally different from volleyball, we have similar ideas about team-bonding and stuff, and things like that.”
While Richardson doesn’t have a ton of coaching experience, she has taken much of her approach from the coaches she has played for throughout the years.
The approach has to do with trying to mold her student-athletes and guide them as people, and not just volleyball players.
“I try to approach it that way, and knowing that it isn’t all about volleyball,” Richardson said. “I try to make my players be the best people they can be in the classroom, with their character as individuals and how they treat others and how they treat their teammates, too.”
She admitted it can be a delicate balance with student-athletes these days, determining which players respond well to criticism and which ones need a pat in the back for motivation.
“I think everyone has their own approach, so it’s just about finding what works for you and works for your players,” she said. “Some players need that harsh approach, and others need you to be a little softer.
“It’s just figuring out and taking the time to determine who needs what and how that relationship will work.”
Richardson found the cupboard far from empty as she begins her first season in the big chair with the Lady Panthers.
Returning is second team all-area pick Emily Shipman, a multi-sport standout who finished with team-high totals of 150 kills and 289 digs, to go with 17 service aces and 23 solo blocks.
Also back is Anna Young, who had 118 digs in 2018. Both will be seniors.
“We do have a lot returning for this year,” Richardson said. “Luckily, we only lose one senior. We will have two seniors on our varsity lineup and then have several juniors and some sophomores.
“We have a pretty good bunch with some talent continuing to come up through the years.”
The Mallory Richardson Era at Forsyth will open on Sept. 3, with a home game against Skyline.
Highlights on the schedule include hosting the Forsyth Tournament on Sept. 14, home matches against School of the Ozarks on Sept. 10 and Class 1 state semifinalist Billings on Sept. 23, and a road match at Blue Eye on Oct. 21.
She already has a clear vision of what she wants fans and onlookers to see from her players on a nightly basis.
“I want them to have fun, but of course, I want to win games,” Richardson said. “I think some of that comes from having a love for the game and knowing that you have your teammates’ backs.
“That’s what I want to see, that they are working hard the whole time and they are working together and not being selfish.”