There’s many ways to get into coaching. You may know a head coach somewhere who’s willing to hire you as an assistant, or you might work your way up through an internship. Regardless of how you get there, the coaches who end up succeeding always find a way to the top.
It’s no different with Cookeville High School volleyball coach Jami Cherry, who has helped build programs and develop different outlets for players in Cookeville to better themselves as student-athletes. According to Cherry, it all started with a practicum she did while enrolled at Tennessee Tech.
“I did my practicum at Avery Trace Middle School, and they didn’t have a middle school program at that time,” Cherry said. “Their counselor, Angie Ridley, asked me if I would be interested in helping start the (volleyball) program … She needed someone to run tryouts and coach up the girls.”
Cherry helped Ridley get the program going in 2000, and that was the beginning of her coaching career. She stayed there until 2003, when she accepted an assistant coaching gig at Cookeville High School with then-Head Coach Karen Brooks. Cherry coached there until the birth of her third child in 2006, and she stepped down from her job at CHS.
“I was a P.E. teacher at Prescott South Middle School, and that was the year they asked me to start the volleyball program there,” Cherry said. “I coached until 2009, and then I took a few years off … I needed time to be a mom.”
Cherry focused on raising her three children and then in 2015, she started a travel organization called Mojo Volleyball. It was her goal to give volleyball players in the area a chance to develop their skills while staying local in Cookeville.
“We wanted to give the girls in the area the opportunity to play travel ball and help our high school program without them having to travel to Nashville,” Cherry said. “I didn’t know in 2015 that I would be applying to be the head coach (at CHS) in 2018.”
After being hired, Cherry led the Cavaliers to one of their best seasons in school history. They accumulated a 37-14 record and finished fifth in the state tournament, tied for the best finish in school history. None of it would be possible, according to Cherry, without one of her most important mentors.
“Definitely Karen Brooks,” Cherry said when asked about her mentors. “I played for her in high school and started as a freshman … a lot of my coaching philosophy comes from her.”
Cherry’s squad will look to reach even higher heights this season, as she has made it clear they expect nothing less than the state title.