How does one follow the architect of three state championships in a four-year span?
Wade Baxter is about to find out.
The man who has sat only one chair over from Susan Odenbaugh will take over as the head volleyball coach at Lewis-Palmer. And he knows more than anyone else of the challenge that awaits him when the fall season rolls around this August.
“I think the challenge is where is the only direction you can go when you’ve won three state championships in four years," Baxter said. "It’s just trying to maintain that level. Anything but competing for a state championship is almost kind of a disappointment."
But that's not his only reason for doing it. Baxter enjoys being around the kids and helping in their development into young adults.
Volleyball wasn't a passion of his growing up. He first played — really played — at Carlton College, a Division III school in Minnesota. He grew to like it. So he played in competitive and recreational leagues.
It was an activity for him.
It wasn't until he started working under Odenbaugh that the game became something he truly loved.
"When I came in and started as a C-team coach — we had four teams in those days and I was the second c-team coach — I was raw," he said. "I knew the game a little bit from my playing days, but not at the level that I needed to coach effectively. She taught me so much over the years to really put me in a position to be able to do this.”
Odenbaugh had to be effective in her teachings. When she announced last month that she would not return as the coach, athletic director Nick Baker had the unenviable task of filling her shoes.
How does an athletic director just up and replace a coach who has meant so much to their school? Especially when there are several state championships involved.
Baker wasn't going to ignore the benefits of hiring a familiar face. But that aspect alone wasn't what drove the decision.
“Continuity is always helpful when things are going right," Baker said. "It’s always a considering but not ultimately a determining factor.”
Reading between the lines, it simply sounds like Baxter was the best fit for the position. His passion for Lewis-Palmer athletics goes well beyond coaching volleyball.
If there is an event at Don Breese Stadium or in the Lewis-Palmer gym, he can usually be found announcing or running the scoreboard.
But now his focus will turn to the program that he now spearheads. What excites him the most isn't the idea of implementing his own system or taking credit for wins or state championships. He just can't wait to be around his team.
That's what he has found that he has loved the most about the Rangers volleyball program.
"I look forward to being around the kids," Baxter said. "I have a great time being with them, whether it’s practice, on the bus, whatever; and watching them compete. They are so talented. Sometimes I just feel like I have to make sure I just push the right buttons and they can go out and do what they do.”