RALEIGH — When Jim Freeman took over the Cardinal Gibbons volleyball program in 1991, he knew next to nothing about the sport.
A sudden coaching vacancy forced the then-Gibbons assistant athletics director and former baseball coach to step in and learn on the fly.
“I coached in a state of panic,” said Freeman, now the head volleyball coach at Broughton High School in Raleigh. “I brought people in who did know what was happening. I didn’t have an ego about it. I tried to learn as much as I could, but I was always trying to find great assistants.”
Today, with 23 years of experience under his belt, Freeman is one of North Carolina’s most successful high school volleyball coaches. He led Cardinal Gibbons to 12 state championships while compiling a 426-117 record with the Crusaders. He has also coached at Friendship Christian and St. Mary’s, leading the latter to its first NCISAA state tournament appearance in school history.
Freeman has also found success at Broughton since he was hired last spring. The team earned the No. 1 seed for the East region in this year’s NCHSAA 4A volleyball tournament.
Meanwhile, Cardinal Gibbons is still going strong since Freeman left the program in 2010. The school’s volleyball team is the No. 2 seed in the 3A tournament, and it has won the past five NCHSAA titles in its division.
Freeman’s philosophy remains to surround himself with strong coaches, which is evident in his handling of an emerging Broughton program. During a second-round playoff game against Leesville Road on Tuesday, Freeman made sure he was heard when the team needed it, but a good amount of the in-game talking came from assistant coach Traci Smith.
“It’s an interesting dynamic that I think you probably don’t have in a lot of programs,” said Smith, who was the head coach of the Capitals for two seasons and led the team to last year’s Cap Eight conference title.
Smith, a former player and coach at Appalachian State, knew the time commitment needed to build a strong high school program. Just two years before that conference title, Broughton volleyball won only three games.
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