Laurie Creighton retires after 43 years of service

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Laurie Creighton retires after 43 years of service
Coach CreightonNovember 20 marked the final state tournament for Olympia High School volleyball coach Laurie Creighton. Creighton retires this year after 43 years coaching at OHS. In that time, her teams went to state 24 times and won two state titles.

“The two state championships are highlights of my career at OHS,” Creighton said. “Winning both, while the tournament was played locally at St. Martin's (University), was pretty great. Also, helping teams qualify and compete at the state tournament a bunch of times has been really special. I'm grateful to get to do that with this last group of outstanding kids.”

Creighton was so influential in the volleyball program at OHS that the school named the court after her. Creighton Court was unveiled during a ceremony at the school on Oct. 30. She has also been inducted into the OHS Athletic Hall of Fame and the Washington State Volleyball Coaches Association Hall of Fame.

"Coach Creighton is the gold standard for professionalism in educational-based athletics,” said OHS athletic director Bob Kickner. “Forty-three years of service to a community is amazing. Her impact on and off the court to young women is immeasurable. She has shown a determined commitment to the female athletic experience since the passing of Title IX in 1972. Her dedication to the craft of coaching and her ability to teach life skills through volleyball has impacted nearly 1,000 student athletes."

In addition to naming the court after her, OHS also created a new award named for Creighton that will be given to a senior athlete at OHS each year who demonstrates coachability, character and commitment.

OHS Volleyball Bus to State 2021"Coach Creighton's legacy at Olympia High School will stand the test of time,” Kickner said. “She has been a wonderful example of the school's values of pride, courage and tradition. Her absence will create opportunities for the next generation of students and coaches to aspire to the level of sustained excellence displayed by her career."

Creighton is known for throwing in a little pinch of life lessons with her volleyball coaching. One of her mottos, oft repeated, is “You’re a person a lot longer than you’re a volleyball player.”

Players on Creighton’s current volleyball team say that she leads them to be better through her example and that she embodies everything she asks for from her players.

“It was really inspiring to see how much she believed in all of us,” said senior Kendall McBride. “Our theme this year was ‘All In’ and it was cool to see how she led by example and supported us to do the same and achieve everything we wanted.”

One of Creighton’s biggest goals was to help her athletes grow both on and off the court, she said. “I aimed for volleyball to be the vehicle to help kids improve as players and grow as people of character, ready to move on in life with success on their chosen path. I count it as success to have played a part in helping kids gain confidence and become better versions of themselves, on and off the court.”

When talking about Coach Creighton, student athletes almost always mention the impact she had on their lives extends beyond the court.

Coach Creighton Smiling“She has not only helped me grow as an athlete and volleyball player, but also as a human,” said sophomore Kate Herrick. “From expanding my leadership skills to learning what it means to be a person of character, Coach Creighton has been such a powerful role model, teacher and coach to me. I am so grateful to have been a part of this amazing journey and to have had the opportunity to be coached by such a dedicated and caring person.”

Some of Creighton’s fondest memories are those moments when she sees the team or an athlete accomplish something they have worked hard for, Creighton said. “Outside of the two state titles, most of the great moments are when a team or kids accomplish a goal -- like gaining a new skill, or when they finally ‘get it’ for the first time. Maybe it's when a typically shy kid takes that step to get outside her comfort zone and is loud on the court, or she starts playing with confidence, on the edge of her ability.”

The students, Creighton said, are what she will miss most.

“The kids are so great,” Creighton said. “There has been a tremendous legacy of players who've reached the varsity level over the years. They've bought into the high expectations and the culture. Kids of such high character who want to leave the program even better than they found it. I will miss spending afternoons working with them at practice, watching them become better players and people.”

Senior Kate Johnson said that she is forever changed by the lessons from Creighton. “Coach Creighton has definitely made me a better volleyball player but more importantly a better person,” Johnson said. “She has taught me so much about having confidence in yourself that doesn’t come off as rude or cocky.”

Creighton was drawn to coaching because she loved sports. She credits some of her own coaches from her youth for inspiring her to follow in their footsteps.

Coach Creighton at work“I had great female role models as coaches when I was in junior high and high school,” Creighton said. “They were important to me during a challenging time in my life, after having lost my mom and grandmother to a drunk driver, as a 9th grader. I loved sports growing up. So it has always felt like a calling.”

After retirement, Creighton said she will spend her free time playing pickleball, stand-up paddle boarding, taking photos, reading and traveling. You may also see her in the crowd at OHS volleyball games.

“I know I can't go cold-turkey,” she said. “I want to support these kids who are playing for me now and who'll be back in the next few years. So, yes, I will be back to support -- especially those players who are returning to varsity the next few years.”

Creighton is known to follow up with her athletes for years after they graduate high school. Shelly Wilson, a former athlete of Creighton’s, invited the coach to be in her wedding and attend her baby showers. Wilson remembers when Creighton visited her during her sophomore year in college and gave her advice about life and decision-making.

“It was a very crucial time and it made a huge difference being able to connect with her and talk about the things that were going on with me. It’s never all just about volleyball, ” Wilson said. “She’s one of the most intentional coaches in all aspects of coaching - in the game and in your character.”

The thing that will be most remembered about Creighton is her generosity with her time and talents, Wilson said. “She’s always a servant. As much as a coach may be looked at as someone in charge, she’s all about serving. That’s what a true leader is: a servant. She serves those kids and families by giving so much of herself and investing not just coaching time but opportunities to grow as women. You don’t walk out of there without being challenged and growing.”