Tumwater High School volleyball coach Tana Otton said Tuesday she is stepping down from the position after nearly two decades of success with the program.
Otton, who was hired in 2003, has led the T-Birds to a 262-37 record and three Class 2A state titles the past 15 seasons. She made the decision to step down at the end of the season, following Tumwater’s 12th trip to the state tournament in the past 13 years.
Her daughter, Kennedy Croft, is a two-time Olympian All-Area player of the year, and will graduate in the spring. Otton said she resigned so she would be able to watch Croft begin her college career at Gonzaga University.
“There are quite a few reasons,” Otton said of her decision to resign. “The obvious one is so I have the freedom to go watch Kennedy play over the next four years.
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“I don’t know if she’ll be playing her first year, or what that looks like, but just so I have that freedom to go watch her at whatever time on whatever day — so I can just pick up and go.”
Otton said she will still live in Tumwater, coach a local youth club team and give individual lessons, but make trips to Spokane and elsewhere to watch Croft play whenever she can. She also plans to pursue her Master’s degree in athletic administration.
“It’s just kind of a good time for me to make a change,” she said.
Otton attributed much of her success at Tumwater to the athletic department, athletic director Tim Graham and the support of the Tumwater community.
During her tenure, the T-Birds won the 2A Evergreen Conference title 14 times — seven of those undefeated — and won seven Southwest District titles.
She also took Tumwater to the 2A state title game six times, including the three championships in 2016, 2014 and 2008.
Those are some of the moments she’ll remember the most.
But she also expressed her appreciation for her coaching staff — which remained largely in tact during her 15 years — and how that bond played into the success of the program.
“Those moments are huge,” Otton said of the three state titles. “To meet your ultimate goal, and to see the pure joy in the girls’ faces after getting what their dreams were for the year. Those are memories that I’ll cherish forever.
“But, really, it’s just the relationships I’ve built with the coaching staff and the former players along the way, and that I continue to have. Those are lifelong relationships.”
Otton is not sure if she will return to high school coaching following Croft’s college career, but hasn’t ruled it out. Prior to arriving at Tumwater, she coached for two seasons at Meridian, where she won a state title in 1998.
She then coached for a season at Whatcom Community College before returning to Tumwater, where she coached JV for two years before taking over the varsity team.
Otton has an all-time record of 297-43 as a high school coach, including the four state titles.