POPLARVILLE — For years Haley Chatham has talked to anyone and everyone about the need for junior college volleyball in Mississippi. Now she'll get the unique chance to back up her passionate message.
Pearl River Community College announced Tuesday that Chatham has been hired as the school's first volleyball coach. As such, Chatham will also lead PRCC and the MACJC into uncharted territory as the Lady Wildcats are set to be the state's first junior college program.
"We are excited to add Haley, her husband, David, and their family to the Wildcat Family," PRCC Athletics Director Jeff Long said. "First and foremost, Haley is the type of person and leader we want representing us and setting an example for our student athletes on and off the court. She comes from a great community in Vancleave.
"Her success there is a testament to her leadership and coaching ability. I'm extremely excited to have her building our women's volleyball program."
Chatham joins PRCC fresh off of leading her alma mater, Vancleave High School, to a second consecutive MHSAA Class II Championship.
During her five years at VHS, Chatham quickly separated herself as one of Mississippi's top up-and-coming coaches, building a 126-40 record over that span.
Having won all there is to claim at the prep ranks, Chatham is ready to build PRCC's program from the hardwood on up.
"I have been talking about (the need for JUCO volleyball), thinking about it and really wanting it and then Pearl River really stepped up to the plate and said 'we want to be the first,'" Chatham said. "There's something really special about being the first and being pioneers of volleyball in Mississippi and I realized I wanted to be the one who's first and lay that foundation, like my coaches did for me, for the rest of the girls in the state."
When PRCC President Dr. Breerwood and Long announced the addition of Mississippi's first JUCO volleyball program, they focused on the chance to provide more opportunities for Mississippi's youth to obtain college educations while chasing their dreams on the court. Chatham shares that same passion.
"A lot of our girls don't currently get to go on and play after high school. The popularity of volleyball in the rest of the country hasn't really been there in Mississippi but the last five years it has really taken off," Chatham said. "More and more high schools are adding volleyball and clubs are popping up everywhere. Now kids are getting into it younger at 5 and 6 years old, so we're on a track to really grow the spot."
Having just spent the weekend in Oxford while coaching VHS to a second state title, Chatham has seen what the Magnolia State has to offer on the court.
"There are some top notch athletes in our state and I'm excited they will get to play at the college level," she said.
Chatham knows first hand about playing volleyball in Mississippi. A native of Vancleave, Chatham played soccer and volleyball for the Bulldogs. She later attended Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College before graduating from Southern Miss with a bachelor's degree in speech and hearing sciences.
Chatham got into coaching at St. Martin High School as an assistant and took over Vancleave High School's program in 2014. Over the next five years, Chatham built the Lady Bulldogs into a power, winning four district titles and capping her tenure with two consecutive Class II State Championships.
Honors during her prep coaching career included receiving the Mississippi Association of Coaches 2017-18 Coach of the Year award, 2017-18 MAC State Championship Award, and being selected to coach in the MAC North-South All-Star Game.
In addition to coaching at VHS, Chatham was an instructor at Mississippi Gulf Coast Volleyball Club in Kiln, Miss., and founded the Coast Volleyball Academy in Ocean Springs, Miss., in 2017.
Haley and her husband, David, have three children, Hannah, Hayden and Graham.
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CUTLINE: Pearl River Community College announced Tuesday that Haley Chatham has been selected to lead the MACJC's first volleyball program. The team will debut in 2019. (KRISTI HARRIS/PRCC ATHLETICS)
Pearl River Community College
Director of Communications for Athletics