WOODWARD — While not a tremendous shock to those closest to her, the resignation last week of Woodward-Granger head volleyball coach Meg Jackson was met with a mixture of surprise, sorrow and thankfulness for her 16 years leading the Hawk netters.
Jackson and husband Marc have three children attending DC-G schools. Kenna is currently in the eighth grade, with Ben in the sixth grade and Anna in grade two. Spending time with family was the chief consideration for her decision to step aside, Jackson said in a public letter.
“While I long to spend more time with my family, W-G volleyball has been my family for years and my other ‘safe place’ to land,” she said. “I have met some of the greatest people in my life through my time at W-G. Your support and encouragement kept me going. I am aware that it was not always roses, but the good has always FAR outweighed the rough parts of coaching. Many of you have blessed me with your children. I have loved them and learned from every one of them! That is the toughest part of leaving this job—not getting to spend the time with the awesome girls I get to call ‘MY’ players each season.”
For many years Jackson has been assisted by her sister, Kate Hargrafen, who has not decided whether to pursue the head position or step aside as well.
Jackson’s tenure has been one of spectacular success both on and off the court. She was 314-156 (.668) overall and guided the school to the 2011 state tournament, the only such appearance in W-G history. She was won numerous coaching accolades, and several of her players have earned all-district and all-state recognition.
In 2009 W-G joined the West Central Activities Conference, and since that move Jackson has turned the Hawks into, arguably, the premier Class 2A program in this portion of the state. W-G is 69-6 (.92) in conference play in those nine years, winning five titles and three times placing one game from the top spot.
Known for a dedication to fundamentals and hard work, Jackson’s players endure lengthy practices and intense drilling. Rather than being put off by such a demanding approach, the result has been the opposite and has instilled in the program an expectation for success.
W-G is 116-40 in the past four years. Four losses have come in the Class 2A playoffs, and two others in the regular season to 2A schools. The Hawks have not lost to a 1A school since 2013, with the 34 remaining setbacks to schools larger than W-G.
A desire to face the toughest competition has led Jackson to convince various athletic directors over the years to schedule the Hawks into numerous tournaments featuring 4A and 5A schools, thereby sharpening the skills of her squad.
As with all successful coaches, Jackson has her own growing coaching tree, as several former players are now coaches themselves at various levels, both throughout Iowa and as distant as Texas.
The two W-G coaching sisters caught the bug early on, as their father, Eldon Gammell, was himself a quite successful net coach and guided Creston to both the 1980 and 1987 state tournaments.
Jackson said she has been overwhelmed by the response to her decision to step down, which she recently shared with her current players. Phone calls, emails and remarks on various social media have left her both “flattered and very humbled,” she said.
While she will now have the luxury of spending more time with her family, Jackson said the W-G programs and players have also been like family, and she would miss all that came with being the head Hawk.
“When I began this journey, I didn’t know how big a part of my life, and my family’s life, it would turn out to be,” Jackson said in a public letter to players, parents and fans. “Along with the program, I grew as a coach and a person. My players, parents, special fans, ADs, other coaches, the list goes on and on, have had such an impact and have taught me so much. The bonus is that I have shared all of this with the best assistant/sister anyone could ask for! ‘Thank you’ isn’t enough for the awesome experiences I have shared with, in my opinion, some of the best people God put into my life. I have truly been blessed!”