For a guy who started out wanting to coach football, Mike Carter has done pretty well for himself as a volleyball coach at three high schools in the San Antonio area since he graduated from college 22 years ago.
After recording 204 victories at Randolph and Holmes, which both made the playoffs three times during Carter's watch, he moved to Reagan when the North East ISD school opened in 1999 and has built one of the best volleyball programs in the state.
The Rattlers have gone 445-83, advanced to the state tournament twice and won nine district championships in 13 varsity seasons. Reagan never has missed the playoffs, advancing as the district-runner-up the four times they haven't won the league title.
"There always have been high standards and expectations at Reagan," senior outside hitter Brooke Sassin said Tuesday night. "That makes us work hard to keep the tradition going."
The Rattlers, who beat Judson in three sets in their playoff opener Tuesday night, play Clark in the second round at 7 p.m. Thursday at Taylor Fieldhouse. Reagan (40-2) won its seventh district crown in the past eight years this season, finishing 12-0 in 26-5A.
Even after all of his success, Carter chuckles when he recalls how he came to be a volleyball coach.
A 50-year-old Air Force veteran who grew up in Richmond, Va., Carter got his first job at Randolph after graduating from Texas State in May 1990. Hired that summer by then-Randolph athletic director and football coach Jimmy Turnbow, Carter went 101-35 in five seasons and took the Ro-Hawks to the regional final in 1995.
Carter proved to be quick study as rookie volleyball coach
"I thought I was going to be a football coach, but I didn't get hired," Carter said. "Coach Turnbow hired me for volleyball. Honestly, I knew nothing about it. I played in a little sand-and-grass tournament at this place in New Braunfels. It was more a just-for-fun thing. I played in it the weekend I was graduating.
"So when I went to a job fair, and applied for a football job at Randolph, Coach Turnbow said, 'Well, we don't have a football job, but do you know anything about volleyball?' And I go, 'Well, actually, I played in a tournament this weekend.' He brought me in and hired me as the head girls volleyball coach."
The rest, as they say, is history.
Determined to learn all he could about volleyball, Carter read up on the sport and picked the brains of the best coaches in the sport.
"I had never even been to a volleyball practice," he said. "We didn't have volleyball in Virginia when I went to school. I went to every clinic and every camp for about five years. I mean it was 24/7. I bought every video and book I could buy. I wanted to win. Every coach does."
Carter has benefited greatly from coaching at a school that has high participation in club volleyball, which can be expensive.
"I've been fortunate to have some great kids, and some motivated parents who are willing to do the extra things," he said.
Reagan has won at least 40 games in a season four times
Carter left Randolph in 1995 to coach at Holmes, where he went 103-39 in four seasons.
"I had a great experience coaching at Randolph," Carter said. "I worked with some great people."
When Robin Gerlich left Holmes to take over the volleyball program at Churchill, she called Carter and encouraged him to apply for her old job.
"So I went for it," Carter said. "Again, I had some great kids and that turned into the Reagan job. I loved the kids at Holmes. It was very hard to leave because we had built something there. So leaving was tough.
"I thought for the long term, it was going to be the best thing for me to go to Reagan. Fourteen years is a long time at one place."
Reagan has won at least 40 games in a season four times and eclipsed the 30-win mark five other times. The Rattlers never have won fewer than 22 games in a season.
Reagan lost in the 2005 state semifinals and the 2006 state final, and has come within one victory of earning a berth in the state tournament four other times.
"I'm very proud of our consistency and the number of kids who get an opportunity to go on and play at the next level, and a high level," Carter said. "I'm also very proud that the kids honor the tradition and each offseason work hard to maintain it. In 14 years, we've either been first or second in district and we take pride in that consistency."
Reagan's success grounded in fundamentals
Four players on this year's team -- Sassin (Lamar), senior Morgan Reed (Baylor), senior Bailey Sherman (Kansas State) and junior Ashlie Reasor -- have made college commitments.
Reed and Sassin, who have been on the Reagan varsity since they were sophomores, were teammates at Lopez Middle School and have played club volleyball together.
"We've grown up together and we always looked up to the older girls at Reagan," Sassin said. "They were like idols to us. We wanted to go to high school and play volleyball like them."
Sassin credits Carter for the success the Rattlers have enjoyed from day one.
"He breaks the game down into fundamentals, so you know what you have to work on," she said. "When everyone's doing their job, it all just works together."
Reed said her teammates are her closest friends.
"We've grown up together and volleyball has brought us together," she said. "We're like a family. I would go to the Reagan games when I was younger and it was exciting. I would see them and think, 'Wow, I want to do that someday.'"
Sassin and Reed said Carter makes his players better by challenging them with "tough love."
"He wants you to take his tough criticism and get better from it," Sassin said.
Obviously, the Rattlers have done that.
Consistently, of course.