HELIX — Caitlin Steele grew up in the shadow of Portland. She played high school sports at nearby Canby and enjoyed what the big city had to offer.
Now the head volleyball coach at Griswold High School in Helix, Steele said she doesn’t miss the hustle and bustle, nor the traffic, of the Portland area.
“I absolutely love it here,” Steele said of Helix, a small farming community 17 miles north of Pendleton. “When we moved out here (from Portland), we heard about it (Helix), and now we want to send our son (Charlie) to school here.”
Steele, 35, who last taught and coached at Hillsboro High School in 2016, wasn’t looking to get back into coaching, but she said the opportunity was too good to pass up.
“Honestly, I thought I would start coaching again when Charlie was older,” Steele said of her 21-month-old son. “We moved out here and I’ve been a stay-at-home mom. My husband (Tyler) is so supportive, and he knows what it means to me. This is a really good fit.”
Getting a former 5A level coach to lead the 1A Grizzlies was more than athletic director Wayne Miller could have hoped for when he opened the position.
“We were fortunate to find someone with her experience on short notice,” he said. “We are excited for the season.”
The Grizzlies had eight players at Tuesday’s practice, and exchange students from Italy and Germany joined them Friday morning.
The Grizzlies have five returning players with experience, and three freshmen who will add depth.
Steele said she has been pleased with the skills the players already have.
“It looked like volleyball,” she said of Monday’s practice. “The first day went well. They already have good solid foundation, and we are building on that. Passing and solid serving are the keys to everything. These first few days of practice, I’m looking to see if someone has a hidden talent.”
Steele also likes that she will be able to teach the players fundamentals and plays.
“I have sat on the bench and watched 6-foot-1 girls annihilate other teams,” she said. “It’s more fun coaching girls who are hungry for learning and want to improve. Quite frankly, I’d rather make someone into a D-I (Division I) athlete, than coach one who is already there.”
The other plus of coaching at a small-school level is less administrative work.
“I’m not a boss,” she said. “I don’t want to be a principal. I want to teach basic fundamentals and love of the game. I like the feel of Helix. I’m assuming there is less politics, and hard-working folks who get reality.”
The Grizzlies open their season Aug. 29 hosting Pilot Rock.
Just don’t be in a hurry to get to the gym — Steele’s husband is an Oregon state trooper, whose coverage area includes Helix and the roads that lead to the town.