Mesa High School’s volleyball program has always had success on the court.
Most of that consistency can be traced back to the Hatch family tree. The children are the individual branches connected by a sturdy base, their mother. All are connected by the roots, their love for Volleyball.
Their mother, Amy Strawn, has been with Mesa Volleyball for over 20 years. As the head coach for the last 14, she has gotten the chance to coach both of her daughters, Annie and Kate, as well as guide her son J.T., helping all of them in their young careers.
Kate is currently a senior captain of the Mesa girls volleyball team. As the setter, she leads this year’s team in more ways than one. Last season, Kate was the co-captain with her sister, Annie, who was the leading hitter on an explosive Mesa offense.
The two girls had great chemistry and it was obvious on the court. Kate felt like last year was a great experience. No matter the situation, she could always get the ball to Annie who would put it down.
Strawn has always been there for them when they wanted to get better. All three have gone to the gym on their own for extra repetitions. Of course, it is easier when your mom has keys to the school.
That access played a big part in the success of the Hatch family. Most kids were getting rides to friends’ house or going to the movies. But then again, they are not most kids. The gym was their escape. Whether they wanted to clear their mind or get in more work, the ability to get on the court night or day was as an important factor as any.
All three kids have an incredible IQ for the game, and anyone who has watched a single match of volleyball can observe that immediately.
“We take a lot of pride in the fact that our kids are gonna know how to play, play right, and they are going to play hard,” Strawn said.
Both girls have been dedicated to the sport and it has paid off. Kate is attending Northern Arizona University next fall and Annie is enjoying a successful freshman campaign at Iowa State University.
As for J.T., he experienced similar success in high school, falling one win shy of a state title his senior season. Now, he is playing for one of the best professional teams in Germany following a great career at UCLA.
Kate learned a lot from her brother as a player.
“We’ve been in the gym a lot together”, she said, adding, J.T. will text her after games to give her advice and aspects of the game to think about. He has been a great example and his actions on the court speak for themselves. All three kids show an exceptional presence on the court.
Along the way the school gets to watch this process, and they have taken notice. Especially the athletic director, who is responsible for everything related to Mesa High School sports.
Being the athletic director for only three years, David Huffine has observed what Strawn brings to the table.
“It’s something I don’t have to worry about,” Huffine said, crediting Strawn for competitive play year in and year out. He is gracious to have such a reliable coach and leader for the girls’ program. Everything is taken care of already including travel and fundraising, on top of other team needs.
With other school’s volleyball programs not being as consistent as Mesa’s, Huffine enjoys being able to attend practices and games without the extra pressure.
Throughout the history of youth athletics, the topic of a parent coaching their child comes up often. In most cases, the coach is accused of playing favorites. At Mesa, it is safe to say that is not true. If anything, Strawn keeps extra pressure on her own to stay true to the game and put in the necessary work to get there.
Volleyball is a family-oriented sport that it only makes sense that such a stapled name in the community keeps this sport close at Mesa.
Although after this year there will be no Hatch players at the high school level, each “branch” is moving on to bigger things. Whether it’s in Germany, across the country in Iowa, or just up north in Flagstaff, it is highly likely they will be creating their own family tree.
Jacob Hedeby is a sports journalism student at Arizona State's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism covering Mesa High School athletics.