By CRAIG HARVEY
OBSERVER Sports Editor
In the 15 years Jack Dugan has coached volleyball at Forestville, he has accumulated 178 wins.
OBSERVER Photo by Roger Coda
Forestville coach Jack Dugan has been coaching volleyball for 25 years. Dugan has turned his volleyball program into a family atmosphere with team-bonding activities while also staying in touch with many of his former players.
He had undefeated league seasons in 2006 and 2009 on the team's way to divisional championships.
Dugan began as an assistant coach at Forestville and got his first head coaching position at North Collins before returning to Forestville.
In 2010, Dugan was honored with the Chautauqua-Cattaraugus Athletic Association Coaches Sportsmanship Award.
But ask any of his former players, and they will say wins, losses and recognitions don't come close to describing the type of man Dugan is.
A Forestville alumni himself, Dugan has gained respect from fellow coaches and players across Section 6 for his upbeat personality, sense of humor and his heart of gold.
Kelsey Sherwood, a 2005 graduate, played three seasons under Dugan.
She is now a SEO consultant at an Internet mark company called Mainstreethost in Cheektowaga. She also works part time at World Gym.
Sherwood and many other Forestville volleyball players affectionately refer to Dugan as "Daddy Dugan."
"He made me recognize I had the ability to lead and I was stronger than I really was," Sherwood said.
Dugan has always tried to make the volleyball program a family atmosphere by having movie nights or taking the players to haunted houses.
"Right before playoffs we went to see Friday Night Lights," Sherwood said. "He always wanted to make sure we had fun before anything. We tried to do team dinners and his wife cooked. We did a few different things away from volleyball."
Sherwood concluded by saying, "Thank you for everything and letting me be a part of a team and everything you taught me."
Tonja Royce, a 2005 graduate, began playing for Dugan as an eighth grader during playoffs and after four magnificent years for the Lady Hornets, she went on to have a fine career at Fredonia State.
Today, she manages a nutritional supplement store in Columbia, S.C.
Royce would have never played volleyball if it had not been for Dugan, who convinced her to pick up a volleyball instead of pom poms.
"I signed up to do cheerleading," Royce said. "Both Jack and (Assistant coach) Denny (Wakelee) said, 'No way. You can't do cheerleading.' In seventh grade, I tried out for jayvee volleyball and that's when I got to be close with those two guys. They helped me realize I am an athlete at heart. Thank God they saved me from cheerleading. I never touched a volleyball until I met both of them."
Each year, Dugan, along with his wife Janinne, take the team to haunted houses around Halloween time.
"He gave us something to do and kept us out of trouble," Royce said. "He made it feel like a second family. He is a second dad on and off the court. It's been seven years since I graduated and I still talk to Janinne and Jack. I still meet up with them. They cared then and they still care now. It shows they are people that stick around forever."
Royce also noted Dugan was the only person on the team to beat her in the "bajillion mile run around the village" during pre-season training.
And Royce says while Dugan taught the Xs and Os of volleyball, it was the life lessons he taught which will last a lifetime.
"Jack is a tough cookie," she said. "He prepares you mentally for life outside of Forestville. Being in a small town, you get away with a lot of stuff and babied, but Jack did not do that. He was always testing us and let us know when we were being brats. Above all else, Jack taught us about respect. It wasn't just about respect on the court, it was off the court as well. He treated us like daughters. The volleyball organization at Forestville is a family in itself and without Jack and Denny, the program wouldn't be where it is today. The heart of that program beats strong because of those two and Forestville is lucky to have them, especially Jack. All of his athletes are just happy that Janinne let us steal him away from her every season.
"We love you Daddy Dugan. We have since we were kids. Even though we are big kids now, we still do."
Alicia Valentine, a 2010 graduate, first met Dugan in fourth grade when she became the team manager.
She is now a junior at Bowling Green where she is majoring in social work and continues to play volleyball at the intramural level.
Spending nine years with Dugan, Valentine reflected on how much Dugan's love for the game inspired his players.
"I just remember looking up to him a lot," she said. "He inspired me to be a good volleyball player. He gave me the drive to do the best I could. To see how much heart and soul he has put into coaching, it gives you the drive to be a better player. Me personally, he had made me strive to fulfill my dreams."
Valentine also recalls all the fun memories as if they happened yesterday. Haunted houses and pumpkin carving were some of the many activities she thinks fondly of.
"No matter what we were doing, we were always having a good time," she said. "It was something he felt really strong about - having a night where we could not focus on volleyball, but focus on team unity.
"Me and my teammate Kristen Bixby used to sing to him on the bus," Valentine added. "He would really enjoy our lovely voices. It used to always make him laugh."
And though Valentine is three years removed from the program, she still stays in contact with "Daddy Dugan."
"To this day, if I need coach Dugan, I know I can go to him," she said. "He supports his players not only in high school, but also the rest of their lives. I have kept in contact with him quite a bit. He is always asking how school is going and what he can do for me. He has always showed an interest, even after high school. He is one of the greatest coaches our district has seen. He is very dedicated."
Jenny Arnold, a 2007 graduated, played three years for Dugan.
After high school, she attended Slippery Rock - where Dugan attended - and then Monroe Community College.
She is now dental hygienist in Dallas, Texas.
Like Royce, Dugan is the reason Arnold chose volleyball over cheerleading.
"I told him I wanted to be a cheerleader," Arnold recalled. "He saw me in Wal-Mart and convinced me to play volleyball. Since then, that's all I wanted to do. He definitely influenced me to be a volleyball player."
And its a move Arnold is thankful for.
"He is just an overall big influence in my life for sure," she said. "He always taught us life lessons and told stories about people who were less fortunate. It made us appreciate our health and athleticism. He was all about life lessons through athletics. The way he shaped me as an athlete shaped me as a person. He taught our whole team it's always about team work and being there for other people. He was always so positive with us. He taught me as a person to have confidence in myself. It was amazing to take that with me."
Arnold inherited the nickname "Bob" in high school as Dugan took the team to Slippery Rock for a volleyball camp.
"There is a sub shop downtown he always talked about called Bob's Sub Shop," she explained. "We went there and I loved this place. When I ate the sub, my face was hysterical. They always pick on me."
And when Arnold was looking at college, Dugan was there to help her chose what was best for her.
"He was big in my college decision," Arnold said. "He went to Slippery Rock as well. That's how I looked into that. That was a big part in my chasing my dental dreams. There wasn't anything bad to say about it. He loved it there. He didn't make me feel like I was ever being pushed there. I ended up playing softball. He was excited I was going because it was a big part of my life and I got to experience what he experienced."
And though Arnold is five years removed from the program, Dugan still makes Arnold feel like family through text messaging and phone calls.
"Anytime I talk to him, it seems like time has never passed," she said. "He will shoot me a text. He text me at 5:30 a.m. to tell me they beat Randolph last month.
"Being a captain for two years, I got closer to him that way," Arnold continued. "To this day, I know if I ever need anything in this world, he would do it in a heartbeat. Overall, he is one of the greatest people I know and one of the greatest coaches I have ever had. I can't say a bad word. He has done so much for me and every girl who has played for him. I admire him 100 percent."
Ryanne Dugan, a senior at Forestville and Jack's sister, had the rare opportunity to be coached by her brother for four years.
"I don't know what it would have been like to play without my brother," she said. "It went by so fast. I played four years for him. I can't imagine playing those years without anyone else. It wouldn't have meant as much. I am glad I got to play for him. Everyone talked about how great he was and I got the chance to play for him, not only as a player, but as a sister, and it meant a lot."
It was Jack's love for volleyball which got his little sister excited about the sports.
"When I was little, he tried to convince me volleyball would be my favorite sport," she reflected. "Growing up with him, he taught me to love the game. And I like it a lot more because I see how much he loves it and it makes me love it that much more. As a coach, he loves the game of volleyball. He wants us to do the best we can to succeed. He teaches us lessons we will use for our whole life. He is always going to be there for me. He sets an example and shows he will support us in life - even after volleyball."
Like most players who have played for Jack, Ryanne won't remember every win or every loss. But she will remember the life lessons Jack taught her and the team-bonding activities.
"After senior night, we were out late eating and going to haunted houses and stuff like that," Ryanne said. "We are together a lot to do the shopping for Spike Out Cancer and we do community service. We watched an inspirational movie about a guy who was faced with challenges because he is paraplegic ."
Ryanne also appreciates Jack's sense of humor she gets to see at home and on the volleyball court.
"He is funny," she said. "He just comes up with funny comments about ridiculous things. He tells bad jokes. He picks on all of us. We are fair game all the time. If we mess up or do something embarrassing, we are not going to live it down. He will tell me I have my feet in cement blocks or I have a piano tied to my back because I don't move well."
Ryanne also notes her brother has always been very humble and deserves all the praise in the world.
"He doesn't give himself enough credit," she said. "He puts in the extra time and credit. He deserves everything he has. He loves it and you can tell. He devotes so much time. I love him and I cant imagine growing up without him. I am glad I got the opportunity to play for him. Unlike a lot of players, I get to see him for the rest of my life. Some play for him and won't see him often. Luckily for me, he will always be a part of my life - whether he likes it or not."
A man who has truly appreciated everything Dugan has brought to the table is Forestville Athletic Director Scott Hazelton.
"We work very well together," Hazelton said. "He is a person I truly trust. We use each other as sounding boards with different ideas to make sure we are doing the right things for the students. His convictions are similar to mine. He is very easy to work with. We always have open lines of communication. He makes my job very, very easy because he is always looking to do the right thing for the school and represent the team well."
Hazelton also noted Dugan's efforts in the annual Spike Out Cancer game.
"I approached him with the idea and the kids and parents bought into it," Hazelton said. "It was a group effort. He has been more than helpful developing charitable events and teaching the kids there is something bigger than ourselves. That's something he has always preached to his kids. I am very appreciative to the efforts he has put towards that game. Not only does he prepare them for athletics, but he prepares them to be better people."
After Forestville lost to Ellicottville in the Class D-2 semifinals, Dugan sent Hazelton a text message to inform him of the loss.
Hazelton responded, "Those kids are going to carry away many more memories than one loss here or one loss there."
"He gives those kids a lifetime of memories," Hazelton concluded. "In 10-20 years down the road, those kids can look back and say, 'Jack has really done something for me to change my life.' That says a lot about him as a person. He has touched a lot of lives and helped student athletes. Jack always leaves a lasting impression on everyone he connects with. He puts everything he has into the lives of those kids. They not only become a team, they become family. He becomes a father figure for some of those kids."