For Susan Odenbaugh, it is just the right time.
After 15 years as the head volleyball coach at Lewis-Palmer, Odenbaugh has decided to step down from the position. She informed her players of her decision on Wednesday and spoke with CHSAANow.com Friday to confirm the move.
“I don’t think you can say that it was one reason more than anything else,” Odenbaugh said. “I’ve actually thought about it the last three to four years. The biggest reason is that it’s been 34 years and it’s kind of time.
“But I’ve always wanted to be an educator because I want to be an effective teacher,” she continued. “It’s become evident in the last two to three years that students will want extra help and want to come in after school. I’ve had to tell them that I can’t help them because I have to run to volleyball practice. I think that’s been a factor.”
For her, it was always about the kids first. And she never made any secret about that. It was the kids that drove her to be a good teacher and a good coach.
She has worked in education for 34 years, been the coach of the Rangers for the last 15, but at this point she wants to have more of an impact on the kids in regard to what place athletics will have in their lives.
Which means despite stepping down as head coach, she isn’t going anywhere.
“Another opportunity has opened up for me,” she said. “Lewis-Palmer has really become involved with (the InSideOut Initiative) and the Positive Coaching Alliance that CHSAA is promoting. I have an opportunity to have a position and work alongside our athletic director, Nick Baker, and to try and work with all the athletes and coaches in our building to promote the idea that sports are about character and teaching kids intangible life skills that will allow them to be successful leaders for the rest of their lives.”
In terms of the timing of getting out, Odenbaugh believes that the program is in good enough shape that she can walk away and give the incoming coach, whomever it may be, a strong program to come into.
No hire has been announced as this time, but Odenbaugh is the first to admit that whoever takes the job will have full autonomy. It will be their program, not her’s.
But before the Rangers can go about finding someone to fill the void, they know they have to understand the loss that they have suffered.
In her 15 years as head coach, Odenbaugh won four state championships at Lewis-Palmer. She spent the first six years of her career at Highland before jumping to Lewis-Palmer as a teacher and an assistant coach under Don Lash.
She won her first state title as a head coach in 2002, which followed up the state title run by Lash in 2001. The Rangers also won a title in 1993. Odenbaugh was a part of all six championship teams.
“What impresses me most about coach Odenbaugh is that even after all of the accomplishments she has attained as a coach, after 34 years she still sought ways to improve to the end,” Baker said. “It wouldn’t be right to not acknowledge her selflessness. For 34 years she’s given up personal time and time with friends and family all to help make our students better people.”
Stepping down from a position such as this one is a tough call for any coach to make. For Odenbaugh, it gave her time to reflect on everyone that has come through her program and everything that the last 28 years at Lewis-Palmer has given her.
Forever modest, she doesn’t want the attention focused on her, but rather the kids that made up her teams. She’ll never take credit for what she feels they accomplished.
“It’s been a very special experience,” she said. “I just want to thank all my athletes because it’s been a very unique and very special opportunity to coach athletes of that kind of caliber. They’re such strong young ladies of profound character and I really want to thank them for everything that they gave me.”