The End Of A Volleyball Era

When Bruce Betts’ Staples boys volleyball team fell in the state finals last year, it was their 1st loss in 101 matches.

The defeat also snapped the Wreckers’ 4-year streak as Connecticut champions.

Betts told his team yesterday he will not be coaching this spring.  But his surprise announcement does not mean he leaves as a loser.

Quite the contrary.  Since founding the Staples boys volleyball program in 1987, the only coach the team ever had has epitomized not just success, but excellence.

Bruce Betts (Photo courtesy of Inklings)

Since 1992 — the 1st time the FCIAC ran a boys volleyball tournament — the Wreckers have won 11 league championship.  Including last spring, they’ve captured 8 straight.

Eight times since 2001, they’ve been state champs.

And there was that remarkable 101-match streak.

“I’ve been thinking about this for quite a while,” Betts said this morning.  “I went back and forth on it.  But when I realized I could no longer make the same commitment I ask the players to make every day of every season, I knew it would be unfair to the players or myself to keep going.”

The hardest part, Betts said, was telling the returning athletes.  “They’re not only great volleyball players.  They’re also great individuals.  They’re a very fun group to be with.”

But, he noted, “this is the right time for me.  It’s the right choice.  There’s no second guessing.”

It’s the 2nd “stepping down” for Betts in a year.  Last fall, for the 1st time in 25 years, he did not coach the girls team.  They too were perennial contenders.

Betts bleeds Wrecker blue.  A Staples graduate from the Class of 1965, he is in his 39th year of teaching physical education in Westport.  His career has spanned Hillspoint Elementary School, Long Lots Junior High and now Staples.  He will continue to teach.

If you’re doing the math:  Yes, Betts is 63 years old.  And yes, he is the most youthful 63-year-old on the planet.

“I’ll be watching a lot of volleyball this spring,” he promised his team yesterday.  “That’s very exciting for me.”

The job will posted — and, no doubt, filled soon.  After all, the boys volleyball season is just around the corner.

The 1st one in Staples history without Bruce Betts.

10 responses to “The End Of A Volleyball Era

  1. A lot of parents and players knew this day would come, but what a bummer! Good luck to Bruce. A generation – or two – of players, parents and fans will miss him and the very exciting brand of volleyball he created for Staples. Now if he COULD tell us how he makes 63 ( ! ) look so good!

  2. What a loss for Staples High School. What I admire most about Bruce Betts is the way he challenges his players and the way he inspires them. He somehow manages to get the best out of them with inspiration and not intimidation. He is a huge asset to Staples High School.

  3. Betts you will be missed.

  4. It’s funny. I am of a certain age and I still mainly think of him as a Staples cross country co-captain

    • As do I (Bruce was a year ahead of me and a friend and classmate of my sister, Suzy) and as an excellent distance runner in indoor and outdoor track. How is it that he looks exactly the same now as then?!

  5. Charlie Haberstroh

    What is more incredible than his record is the positive effect he had on the team members. They weren’t always the best athletes but they always gave their best for Betts. Which is why he’ll loom larger in the minds of the player, their parents and fans than his record.

  6. Luisa Francoeur

    Bruce will be sorely missed on the volleyball court by his athletes, their parents and the parent “alums” who recognize an exceptional individual. The commitment and dedication Bruce showed to his team is an inspiration. When in the stands, I always looked across the court to see how Bruce would react to a play or a ref’s call. He provided the good judgement and courtesy that is often missing in sports. What a gentleman. And how many other coaches have their parents show up to watch the games?!

  7. Betts is the Best, ever!! Charlie H just said it best. Respect, perseverance, inspiration, and calm. A true gentleman and one in a million.We need more teachers and coaches like him. Thanks Bruce for all you’ve taught your athletes.

  8. Gerry Kuroghlian

    Bruce Betts was and is one of the outstanding coaches and teachers in the Westport system. Bruce’s interest in his students represents the best of mentorship in the classroom and on the court. He served as a model of sportsmanship and decorum. Bruce is a proud alumnus of Staples HS and has repeatedly given his best to the school. I sincerely thank him for all he has given to his peers , his students and to his hometown
    Gerry Kuroghlian

  9. Oh my gosh – he’s 63?! I remember when he first came to Hillspoint. All of us girls had a huge crush on him. Enjoy your semi-retirement. It’s seems you have earned it.