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'Life-changing experience' for Michelle Goodall at Rio Paralympics

Volleyball notes: Kennedy coach served as team leader for Team USA

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Michelle Goodall returned to Cedar Rapids on Tuesday. She did so, she believes, as a different person.

“I have to say the last three weeks have been a life-changing experience,” she said, referring to her role as Team USA’s Paralympic women’s sitting volleyball team leader. “There were so many elements to this journey. I was so blessed to be part of it.”

A team leader is kind of like a director of operations. Goodall was in charge of a lot of the logistics during the team’s stay in Rio de Janeiro, which ended with a victory over China in the gold-medal match.

“My role was to take care of a lot of the details so that the coaches could coach. I was there to ensure that the athletes were happy, and to serve as a go-between for the staff and the athletes.”

Team USA head coach Bill Hamiter approached Goodall about the role in April. Trouble was, the Paralympics came during the first chunk of the high-school season, and Goodall is the coach at Cedar Rapids Kennedy.

“I made a couple calls, to my family, to my boss, and they all said that I’ve got to do this,” she said.

Goodall weighed her options with the Cougars for the season. She considered taking a year off, or to offer to be demoted to freshman coach this season.

In the end, she and Kennedy Athletics Director Aaron Stecker agreed to elevate Tim Johnson to a co-head coach position for the season.

China had dominated the previous three Paralympics in women’s sitting volleyball, but the Americans unseated them convincingly, 25-12, 25-12, 25-18, in the gold-medal match Saturday.

“We dominated in the finals,” Goodall said. “It was a beatdown. To get to see something that had never happened before, us winning a gold, it was amazing.

“The thing I’ll remember most was just sitting around the cafeteria in the Paralympic Village, sitting at the same table with people from eight or 10 different countries ... so many languages and barriers, but here we all are together.”

Goodall was reunited with her Kennedy squad in time for Tuesday’s match with Iowa City High. The Cougars won in three sets, improving to 10-3.

KNIGHTS STILL CONTROL RVC NORTH

The River Valley Conference is in its fourth year of existence, and the North Division still belongs to North Cedar.

The Knights (18-3, 4-0) wrapped up a share of the divisional title with a victory over Cascade on Tuesday. They can claim the title outright if they win at Northeast in the league finale Oct. 6.

North Cedar is 19-0 in RVC North matches the past four seasons.

l Comments: (319) 368-8857; jeff.linder@thegazette.com

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