Volleyball Coach Brings Experience, Love of the Game
There’s a reason why Randolph Union High School has an active girls’ volleyball team.
That reason is named Leah Gifford, who started the team two years ago.
Gifford has been a Vermonter since 2003, but she still carries with her a lot from her upbringing in Texas. Specifically, she brings her love of athletics in general and volleyball in particular.
“Sports were always my best time in high school,” she told The Herald in an interview at Vermont Technical College’s SHAPE facility, of which she is now the manager.
In particular, she loved volleyball— and she was good at it. She played from seventh grade through college and earned a spot on the U.S. Junior Olympics team.
“The team went everywhere, travelled everywhere, she said— New Orleans, Georgia, Florida, you name it.”
Gifford certainly has the physical qualifications for a leaping sport like volleyball. To start with, she’s tall—5’10”. But she had another advantage— she at one point had the highest vertical jump of any girl in Texas.
Move to Randolph
She came to Randolph “to get married,” she told The Herald, and lives in East Randolph with her husband, Paul Gifford. Before working at SHAPE, she was an independent personal trainer here. Her husband works in Lebanon in law enforcement.
Gifford loves teaching volleyball as well as playing it.
“Any sport is a good way to teach discipline, and being dedicated to finish what you start,” she said.
“And it’s a nice way to make friends.”
The RUHS volleyball coach Leah Gifford watches her team from the bench during Monday’s match with Enosburg. (Herald / Tim Calabro)
She decided to impose the “discipline” aspect after her first-year, with a team that wasn’t used to the concept.
“People showed up whenever they wanted,” she said ruefully.
Now it’s different.
“They get three misses and then they’re off the team.”
Though volleyball is a new sport for high school competitors, Gifford has 17 girls on her roster. They play 15 games, nine of them at home, on Mondays and Thursdays. The team is about halfway through its season.