CLARION, Pa. (EYT/D9) — Shari Campbell is rarely surprised.
But this phone call floored the longtime Clarion Area High School volleyball coach.
(Pictured above, from left: Clarion volleyball coach Shari Campbell with Brenna Campbell, Erica Selfridge and Ava Kiser in 2020/photo by Nathan Girvan)
When Tony Crisafulli, an officer for the Pennsylvania Volleyball Coaches Association, rang a little more than two weeks ago, she figured it was simply about organization business.
Instead, she received some exciting news.
Campbell was going to be inducted into the PVCA Hall of Fame.
“It’s funny. Tony and I are friends and we go way back and I thought he was calling to tell me that I need to get on a Zoom meeting,” Campbell said, chuckling. “Then he told me and I said, ‘Well, that’s not what I expected.’
“It’s a huge honor,” Campbell added. “I honestly thought that would be something that I’d be maybe be considered for when my whole career was over.”
But why wait? Especially with what is already on Campbell’s long resumè.
Since she took over the Clarion volleyball program in 1999, her Bobcat teams have posted a match record of 437-70.
Clarion has won three state championships during her tenure — in 2012 and back-to-back in 2020 and 2021. The Bobcats were also the state runner-up twice, in 2010 and 2011.
Campbell’s teams have also produced a staggering 55 all-state selections.
(The 2021 PIAA Class A champion Clarion Bobcats)
Her hall of fame nod comes to no surprise to some of her former players.
“I played for Coach Campbell during travel volleyball and varsity volleyball, and she is one of the toughest coaches I’ve ever had,” said Clarion graduate Jordan Best, who was an all-state libero on two state title teams and is now playing softball at Gannon University. “She wanted to win as much as we did and pushed us all to get those wins, and it definitely worked, winning four straight D9 titles and two state championships in my career.”
Best said Campbell’s volleyball knowledge, coupled with her ability to get the most out of her players, is what has made her so successful.
“She knows the game of volleyball and does everything she can to make the best volleyball players and team that she can,” Best said.
Campbell has had a knack for putting players in the best positions to succeed.
That’s no better example of that than Noel Anthony, who was given the enormous task of replacing four-time all-state setter Brenna Campbell (yes, Shari’s daughter) for the 2021 campaign.
It was Anthony’s turn to step up for the Bobcats.
Anthony put in a great deal of time in the offseason with Campbell to get ready for the challenge.
It paid off.
Anthony was stellar with 914 assists, her own all-state honor and helped Clarion to another state title.
“I asked her to put in extra time and she gave me so much of her time,” Anthony said. “I’m super grateful. That’s another thing I can’t thank her enough for — she really gives the extra time to her players and she really just sacrifices a lot for her team.”
She also sets the bar extremely high.
It was one of the things that Anthony appreciated the most about Campbell.
“It’s almost like a college-level program,” Anthony said. “What makes her an especially good coach is she doesn’t try to make us something that we’re not. She focuses on our strengths and tries to strengthen those.”
Anthony, who is a freshman at Grove City College and will play softball this spring for the Wolverines, said Campbell taught her everything there was to know about volleyball.
But also about how to compete at a high level.
“When I came into volleyball, I really didn’t know a whole lot,” Anthony said. “She kind of gave me all that she knew, and in a short amount of time. I’m kind of impressed she was able to convey to me all of that knowledge. She also taught me things not even on the court, but off the court. How to be a leader. How to set an example for your teammates. How to be responsible. She’s an amazing coach and an amazing person and she deserves this, 100%.”
Campbell was a standout player at Huntington High School and moved on to play at Juniata College for legendary coach Larry Bock, who is the all-time NCAA leader in women’s volleyball coaching wins with 1,348.
(Campbell with Bekah Nesbitt, left, and Kyla Miles after the 2013 District 9 championship)
Campbell got her start in coaching as a graduate assistant/assistant coach at St. Bonaventure from 1992-94, where she earned her master’s degree.
She’s been at Clarion Area High School as a teacher and now a guidance counselor since 1994.
Before she landed as the volleyball at Clarion, she spent three years at Clarion-Limestone.
“It’s all about timing,” Campbell said. “When I came out of St. Bonaventure, having played volleyball and coached volleyball and then going into education, it’s kind of a given you will be a coach. It took awhile for me to really realize that coaching is my way to stay on the court.”
For Campbell, the wins have been nice. The state titles exhilarating. But it’s been seeing her former players move on to succeed in life that has given her the most satisfaction.
“Winning a state championship or being excellent is kind of a byproduct of what you do every day,” Campbell said. “That mindset gets transferred to the players and they know they can go out into the world as adults and tackle anything, whether it’s college classes, or raising a family, or pursuing a career. So it’s really gratifying to see so much success come from these women who start as young girls in my program.
“It’s nice to have them reach out and tell me what they are doing,” she added. “They are doctors and PAs and artists and teachers and moms and business women who sit on the Board of Trustees at Clarion University and work for big companies. It’s truly amazing to see.”
The 2022 PVCA Hall of Fame induction ceremony will be held at 6:30 p.m. on Friday at Toftrees Golf Resort in State College.
Reservations to attend are required by calling Daryl Wessner at 570-764-4965.
No one knows Campbell better than Brenna Campbell, who is a sophomore on the University of Mary Washington volleyball team.
And few are as excited about Shari Campbell’s hall of fame honor than Brenna.
“I have been waiting for my mom to receive this honor,” Brenna said. “I am beyond blessed to have been able to be coached by her and she deserves this recognition more than anyone. She not only created one of the most successful programs, but has developed strong women who feel empowered and capable of doing anything.
“Growing up, I have seen all the players, and as a young girl, they empowered me,” Brenna added. “My mother’s coaching is more than just a sport. She has touched so many people’s lives through her job and coaching. I am beyond proud of her.”