Chantal Paschetta White played volleyball at Buchanan High School for the legendary Marian Battles. Then, eight years after graduating, White got the big job of succeeding her former coach.
“I always said I’ll feel bad for whoever takes over when she retires,” White said with a laugh. “And then here it is — it’s me. Battles had just the biggest shoes to fill.”
A passion for excellence and the ability to get the best out of athletes were hallmarks of Battles’ coaching.
White played for Battles for four years and graduated in 2005. She went on to a collegiate volleyball career at the University of California, Davis.
Now wrapping up her fourth year at Buchanan by leading the Bears into the playoffs, White marvels at what Battles accomplished.
“How did she do this for so long?” White said. “She always did everything with class. She expected the most out of us, and she really pushed us. She didn’t settle for anything less, and that’s exactly why we were so successful.”
Battles led the girls volleyball program at Buchanan from 1994 to 2012, and her teams earned an impressive list of accomplishments:
▪ Two runner-up finishes in the Southern Section finals.
▪ Seven Central Section championships.
▪ Nine conference championships.
Battles also won Coach of the Year honors in the Tri-River Athletic Conference several times, and 26 of her players had collegiate volleyball careers.
This year, Buchanan went 26-7 in the regular season and finished at 6-4 in the TRAC. The Bears tied Clovis High School for third in the TRAC, while Clovis West High School won the title.
Buchanan was seeded No. 5 in the Division 1 playoffs and had a bye in the first round, which began Nov. 1. The playoffs culminate on Nov. 12 with matches at West Hills College-Lemoore.
Senior Myca Mitchell — who has verbally committed to play at Wake Forest University — led the Bears through the rigorous TRAC schedule.
Of coaching in TRAC, White said: “Every team is so great. Any given night, it’s up for grabs. It’s not always the best team that wins, but the team that plays the best that night.”
Buchanan is fortunate to face “the best competition in the Valley” in its TRAC opponents, White said.
Losing to the best left White with positive memories from her playing days at Buchanan. In 2002, for example, Buchanan took on Long Beach Wilson High School in the Southern Section finals.
The Bears fell in five games, but White still remembers how she and her teammates battled.
“We weren’t as big as teams from Northern and Southern California, and we probably weren’t as experienced, but we had a lot of fight and a lot of grit, and I think that’s why we were so successful,” she said.
White — who teaches physical education and health at Buchanan — works to instill those same qualities in her teams. “I put them in challenging situations where they experience some adversity, and they have to figure it out,” she said. “They have to realize that adversity is inevitable. It’s a part of the grind. It’s part of competition. It’s part of life.”
Practice drills can help teach those lessons, and so does competing in tournaments against top teams and participating in off-season weight training and conditioning.
Serious players are on the court year round. Many of Buchanan’s players participate in club volleyball beginning in January, after the high school season ends. White works with Battles and other TRAC coaches in club volleyball and seeks Battles’ advice as a mentor.
The best thing about coaching is watching athletes develop their skills, White said: “And seeing them grow as women. From the time they’re freshmen, they grow so much as a person. Seeing that unfold is really fulfilling.”
White started playing volleyball in fifth grade at Copper Hills Elementary School in Clovis Unified School District. She stayed with the sport because she liked the team component and that plenty of action occurs in a small space.
“You have to make very quick decisions, and there are so many things that play into being successful on the court,” she said.
Coaching at her alma mater gives her a great sense of pride, White said: “I cannot picture coaching anywhere else. I really feel like this is my home. It’s very close to my heart.”