Girls’ sports at Central Kitsap High School will look significantly different next year. Two of the school’s longtime coaches, softball coach Bruce Welling and volleyball coach Gordy Bushaw will no longer be at the helm.
Bushaw led the Cougars volleyball team for three decades, retiring in the fall after 31 seasons with the school. The experience Bushaw brought during his tenure will be hard for the Cougars to replace, but his position at least, has been filled.
Central Kitsap announced Michelle Miller, 26, as the school’s new volleyball coach on Friday.
“I’m really excited,” Miller said. “I’m looking forward to meeting all the potential players.”
Replacing a coach who has been the face of a program for as long as Bushaw is intimidating, Miller said, but she isn’t just going to try to fill his shoes. She wants to put her own spin on the Central Kitsap team.
Miller graduated from Bainbridge High School in 2005. She played volleyball for the Spartans all four years, during which time she was named the team’s most valuable player multiple times, selected for All-Metro League honors three times and picked for the 3A All-State team once.
She played volleyball at the University of New Mexico, where she started for the team as a freshman — but her season and her career were cut short when she tore her ACL.
It wasn’t her first major injury. She sat out most of her senior season with Bainbridge after she tore the ACL in her other leg.
Miller underwent surgery and sat out her entire sophomore season with New Mexico. She underwent more surgeries. After that, her doctor recommended she give up volleyball.
Miller never returned to the rotation after her sophomore year, but she didn’t stay away from the court.
“Being unable to be on the court, I started seeing what my coaches saw and I liked the idea of having that role as well,” Miller said.
For Miller, the transition from player to coach was the only natural course of action.
She already liked to coach from the floor as a player — now she was just doing it from the sideline.
She graduated from New Mexico with a degree in health education and moved back to the island. Last year she acted as the assistant coach for her mother, who works as the head coach of Bainbridge volleyball.
Central Kitsap’s athletic director, Bill Baxter, said Miller has a strong personality and the experience needed to step into the coaching role for the Cougars.
“She had a really good background,” Baxter said. “She was a state high school player. She played in college. She’s worked with Bainbridge High School for several years.”
Miller coaches for the Olympic Premier Volleyball Club, where she works with high school athletes at the club level. She has already coached and worked with several graduating Central Kitsap players through club volleyball.
Miller said she was impressed with the level of pride those players took in their team and their school.
“Talking with them kind of made me want to apply,” Miller said. “They’re in a tough conference and they’ve been competitive in that conference.
In high school she treated Central Kitsap like a rival — now her alma mater, her mother’s team, will be her rival.
“It’s not really about where I went to high school,” Miller said. “It’s about now, and improving this program.”