Central Arkansas Christian didn’t have to look far before settling on Ken Roberts to succeed Cade Smith as the Lady Mustang volleyball coach.
Roberts, 57, former high school principal at Mustang Mountain, had been the seventh grade volleyball coach since he left administration to return to the classroom. He teaches math and Bible at the North Little Rock elementary campus.
"When Cade left, I went in and told (CAC president) Dr. (Carter) Lambert if he needed me to help out with camp, I’d be happy to do that," Roberts said Monday. "He said, ‘Why don’t you just take over the team?’ I told him I’d rather he get somebody else to do that, but that I would do whatever.
"A month ago, they hadn’t found anybody else, and he said, ‘It’s all you.’ I made his job a lot easier when I told him that."
Smith left earlier this summer for an assistant’s position at Alabama-Huntsville after five years atop the Lady Mustang program.
Roberts coached girls basketball and volleyball for 15 years in the Birmingham, Ala., area prior to coming to Mustang Mountain in 2001. He served as high school principal for 10 years before returning to the classroom. That’s when he resumed coaching seventh graders both sports.
"I really like coaching seventh grade," he said. "When I first started coaching 30 years ago, I coached sixth graders. I like coaching the younger kids who don’t know anything about the game. You get an opportunity to start from the ground floor. That’s my love — working with people who have never played before."
This year he’ll be reunited with some of those former seventh graders. He coached this season’s sophomores.
"I’ll have a couple of girls starting for me that I coached in seventh grade," he said.
Lynn Brown will work with him as a registered volunteer for the varsity program. Roberts will continue to coach seventh grade volleyball, and Angela Almond will coach eighth and ninth grade.
"We pursued some other people, none of whom ever came to fruition," CAC athletic director Doug Killgore said. "I have no doubt of his qualifications and his ability to take on this assignment."
Roberts said he would eventually like to see the program under the direction of a young woman "who can relate more to the high school girls."
"From my perspective, it’s a good thing for them to have a female role model who has been where they are," he said. "But whatever happens, happens. If they need me to continue, I will. I enjoy working with the kids, but if they can find somebody better, that’s fine."
CAC finished 18-8 last year, 4A-Central conference champion and district runner-up and a quarterfinalist in the Class 4A State Tournament.
"I don’t know a lot about the opposition, but since we’ve started I’m seeing some progress," Roberts said. "We’ve got good team chemistry. The girls all like each other and work well together. They’ve been very accepting of me."
School starts Wednesday, Aug. 14 at Mustang Mountain. The Lady Mustangs will open volleyball season Aug. 26 against Jessieville.