EARLY — Early athletic director Kent Hawthorne is jumping into the fire with both feet, announcing after Early’s school board meeting Monday night plans to start a volleyball program as part of Early ISD athletics, beginning with the 2013 season.

“The funding just got approved last night,” Hawthorne said in Tuesday interview. “We took a poll of all the girls and had over 90 interested in playing volleyball. It’s what the parents and the school board want, so I’m getting it started.”

Early has ordered all the equipment required for starting a volleyball program, which included the nets, balls and volleyball grandstands.

Hawthorne will implement the program at the junior high level initially, then gradually expand it to high school.

“We hope to be on everyone’s district schedule within three years,” Hawthorne explained. “It’s a tough process. I was very fortunate that some of the coaches that I brought here with me for football, their wives are credentialed teachers and coaches, so I got a couple of package deals.”

Hawthorne will start volleyball with Mitzi Hughey coaching the eighth grade girls, and Chris Martinez coaching the seventh graders.

“We’re going to start with what we call an ‘outlaw schedule,” Hawthorne said. “We still have to schedule the teams.We aren’t the only ones starting from scratch in volleyball this year. Comanche is starting theirs this year, and Wall started last season.”

Hawthorne explained that the junior high school kids are prohibited by UIL rules to have any practices or games until school starts.

“We are doing a volleyball camp Aug. 7-9 to get them up to speed,” Hawthorne said. “The cost is $25 a kid and Coach Hughey will be running it and teaching the fundamentals.”

Hawthorne hopes to be able to hire a high school volleyball coach next year, but has to build the program from the ground up.

Also, the Longhorn football coaches will also be running a football skills camp July 31- Aug. 2. The three-day camp is designed for Hawthorne to teach all his incoming and returning players from third grade to junior high the fundamentals of how he wants them to play. The cost is $15 for pre-registration and on-site registration is $25.

Campers are expected to wear shorts and cleats. Each camper will receive a T-shirt.

The complete Early coaching staff going into 2013 schoo, year, according to Hawthorne, is as follows: Darren Bailey, football defensive coordinator; Mike Martinez, football offensive coordinator; Wayland Damron, assistant football and head baseball coach; Mike Sharp, football and head track coach; Nadir Dalleh, football and head boys basketball; Scott Kello, strength coach and baseball assistant; Doug Kent, football and head girls powerlifting; Blake Sandford, football and baseball assistant; Kirk Chastain, football and head boys/girls golf; Brad Riker, JV basketball; Kristi Sandoval, head girls basketball; Alfonzo Chavez, head softball; Martinez, seventh grade volleyball and basketball; Frank Hugley, head cross country, assistant girls basketball; Mike Tumlinson, head girls track; and Roy Jones, head tennis.

At Early Junior High, Melinda Elkins will coach cross country and basketball and Mitzi Hughey will pull down duties for volleyball, basketball and track. Cliff Mitchell will coach junior high football and Fernando Sandoval will handle football, basketball and track. Chad Burleson will coach football, basketball and track.

Hawthorne is glad to have all 42 of his coaching slots filled before the beginning of the school year.

Expectations are high in Early with the past success of the coaching staff that Hawthorne has brought with him.

“We haven’t even played a ball game yet,” Hawthorne said. “We are rebuilding in football and building volleyball from scratch.”