Smaka earns 500th win in volleyball


Grace Montgomery

Head coach Aaron Smaka applauds his team as they made a good play at the senior night game.

The match reaches an end, the Bucs have won against Reeths Puffer and the players rush to the court. As the Bucs feel great about the win and Reeths Puffer is at a low, the opposing teams begin to line up to shake hands to say “good game” or “gg.” Coach Aaron Smaka’s team falls away from the line of hand shakes into a mosh pit of jumping and high fives around Smaka. 

More people surround him and are celebrating this exciting win. As more excitement begins to develop among the crowd, Smaka’s team brings out a cookie cake and balloons. 

Someone then took a picture of him and his players along with the cookie cake and balloons. Reaching 500 wins in Smaka’s coaching career became an exciting achievement for Grand Haven High School. 

“I was taken aback by the way the kids celebrated,” Smaka said. 

Smaka keeps close relationships with all his players, past and present. He recognizes the value that his players have and takes pride in them whether their on or off season. 

Assistant coach Lauren Hamberg played volleyball for Smaka her senior year. She now works as a teacher at Grand Haven High School. Hamberg says that Smaka is always there for all his players. 

“The amount of love and the effort he puts into each season, every year is just astounding,” Hamberg said. “I don’t know how anybody is going to fill his shoes. He spent hours and hours watching film and making sure that the girls’ mental health is there, and constantly coming up with crazy new ideas.”

As Smaka continues to be there for his players, he’ll also continue to improve as a coach and improve volleyball at Grand Haven High School as a whole. 

“I think that there’s not a single moment that you could call ‘the most powerful moment’ because like I said, he is an Energizer Bunny and his fuel is valuable,” Hamberg said.

Smaka, originally a baseball player and planning to play in college, had an arm injury and as fate would have it his life led him here at the age of 18. He started playing in college and continued to play until he transitioned into coaching. His coaching career began in 1997 and has been an on and off experience in the past. After awhile, Smaka decided to step back and resign from coaching volleyball.

“Honestly, I had three young kids at home,” Smaka said. “My wife went back to work full time so at the end of the ‘08 season I decided to resign.”

Later in 2009, he came back for a short time to fill in for a coach that left in the middle of the season. After being pulled back and forth, Smaka returned after Katie Walters left the team and has been coaching since. He is now the varsity head coach and is going into his eighth season back. 

“I want to get better,” Smaka said. “I just love the idea of seeing kids learn the game and lessons they learned through the game and watching kids improve and get better at volleyball.”

As Smaka continues to coach, he wants others to look back at this coaching and to see overall improvements made from year to year, along with the positive relationships between the coaches and players.

“The coaches that are here I think have come through it, they understand our program and I think that’s why our program’s successful, that would even let anything like 500 happen,” Smaka said.

Not wanting to be remembered for his 500 wins, Smaka would rather be remembered for the dedication he has put into the program. When people look at his coaching career, he wants people to see the improvement he’s made over the years along with the way he cares for his players deeply. 

“I’ve been very fortunate to coach really talented and hardworking kids,” Smaka said. “I’m surrounded by really good coaches that helped me out. I mean, it’s cool, I get it, but it doesn’t happen without the support of a lot of people around you.”