Haley Stewart goes from Red Raider to Warrior
Jan 16, 2020 10:52AM
by John Wilson
East Gaston coach Haley Stewart is proof that life can be a whirlwind.
Just a few short years ago Stewart was wearing the red and black of the South Point Red Raiders as she tore up the volleyball court and softball field at South Point High School.
Today, Haley Stewart is coaching the East Gaston volleyball and softball programs.
Stewart’s journey from South Point to East Gaston is one of determination and hope.
In an age where many young people are passed off as lazy, Haley Stewart is an example that hard work and grit are alive and well in the new generation of young people.
Stewart was a South Point stand out. The 2014 graduate was a triple letter varsity athlete who excelled at basketball, volleyball, and softball. During her time at South Point, Stewart garnered all-conference honors and a lot of attention from Division 1 college programs for her solid infield play.
In her junior year, all that almost ended after Haley suffered an elbow injury.
Stewart underwent “Tommy John” surgery to repair the damage in her elbow.
The surgery proved to be a success. Haley rehabbed hard and came back stronger than ever. It’s like she never missed a beat as she continued to play at a high level.
After graduation, Haley looked at her options and decided to accept a scholarship offer from Appalachian State to play softball.
Stewart excelled at App as well.
By the time she graduated in 2019 with a degree in social work, Haley led the Mountaineers in fielding percentage while playing first base.
After graduating from App State Haley decided that she wanted to come back home to Gaston County, a place she feels has given her so much.
Haley decided to apply for the softball coaching job at East Gaston. While only 23 years old Haley already had a lot going for her.
East Gaston principal Jennifer Reep and athletic director Ryan Resendez must have liked what they saw when Haley interviewed.
Stewart was hired as the Warrior’s new softball coach and a special education teacher’s assistant. Not long after coming on board Haley picked up the volleyball coaching gig and soon moved into a PE teacher position.
Having that kind of workload is intense for anyone much less a young first-time coach.
Coach Stewart doesn’t seem fazed by her job or the pressures that come with it.
“I love it,” Stewart said of the challenges she will face. “It’s really nothing to me. I’m super competitive and I really love to coach.”
If you were to meet Haley Stewart you can’t help but notice her quiet intensity. Coach Stewart isn’t cocky or arrogant. She comes across as a friendly, yet confident goal-driven winner. She intends for her team to be winners as well.
Stewart’s coaching philosophy is a blend of old school toughness mixed with modern-day empathy.
“Coach them hard and hug them after,” coach Stewart explained. “I want them to know I care about them and I want what’s best for them on and off the court. With all of my teams, I preach family.”
It’s fair to say that coach Stewart has hit the ground running at East Gaston.
In her first year as a volleyball coach for EG the Warriors went 16-9 and came in third in the Southwestern 2A.
That’s solid work for a new coach, but coach Stewart wants more.
“The season was a little bit of a letdown,” Stewart said. “We were better than our record. It was a growing year trying to establish the culture I want.”
Stewart made not just an impact on her school but other schools as well.
Her peers were impressed with what coach Stewart was doing at East Gaston.
In fact, R-S Central Coach Ryan Sherburne nominated Stewart for the American Volleyball Coaches Association’s High School Thirty under 30 Award.
The AVCA created the award to honor thirty of the up-and-coming volleyball coaches under 30 years old in the sport.
Coach Sherburne’s nomination was well received by the AVCA and coach Stewart was named as one of the 2019 award recipients.
Stewart’s first year as EG’s volleyball coach was definitely eventful. However, there were some lighter moments as well.
During the year Stewart kept her eye on the calendar and looked forward to East Gaston’s upcoming games against South Point.
When game time arrived those match ups proved to be very special for the coach and her players.
East Gaston and South Point played twice last year.
In early September, East Gaston best South Point 3-1 in Belmont
In late September, the teams played again. In the second match up the Lady Raiders beat the Warriors 3-0 in Mount Holly.
“It was fun,” Stewart recalled with a big smile on her face. “I may have wanted to win that one a little more. It brought back a lot of memories being in their gym.”
These days Stewart is gearing up for the upcoming softball season. She’s reached out to her players who are already getting ready for the upcoming season.
While Stewart has yet to coach a single inning for East Gaston softball. it’s fair to say that the philosophy she brings to the volleyball court will be at play on the softball field as well.
Right now the sky is the limit for Coach Stewart. At 23 years old she has a bright future ahead of her. However, the coach isn’t looking too far into the future. Coach Stewart knows she has a lot of work ahead of her. Right now Haley Stewart is focusing on the here and now.
Coach Stewart is determined to keep her eye on the big picture. She knows that as a coach she is entrusted with mentoring the young ladies that play for her.
Coach Stewart is very grateful for the opportunity that she was given at East Gaston.
“I want to thank Ms. Reep and Ryan Resendez for giving me the opportunity to be here,” coach Stewart added. “When the opportunity came I really wanted to give back to the community that gave me so much.”
The years to come will be interesting at East Gaston. It will be fun to watch volleyball and softball teams grow and coach Stewart comes into her own.