Sports Editor’s note: Covering this story and writing about the young ladies that helped make the Goddard volleyball into the Team of the Decade in the 1980s was more than we could fit in one edition, so this will be the first in a multi-part series.
With an assist from coach Judy Smyth and her recollections of the games and events that made things meaningful to her and the help of past editions of the RDR Sports pages, we tried to reconstruct the time and the games for you, the fans.
This week will be Goddard week as we relive those victories. Today, we start with coach Smyth and will proceed with the 1982 championship on Tuesday, culminating with the ‘89 team in later editions.
Goddard volleyball coach Judy Smyth won when opponents and people didn’t expect her teams to win. Smyth lost when she didn’t want to lose. It was never about the championship, but about the journey with the kids, she coached. Smyth has plenty of championships (five) to validate her coaching career.
Outside of Goddard football coach Sam Jernigan, who won six blue trophies in 14 years, Smyth has had the second-best run of any Goddard coach during an eight-year span.
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Between 1982-90, Smyth won five blue trophies and if she wasn’t winning it all, her teams finished in second place. The worst Goddard finished was third place in ‘83, during that eight-year run. Titles didn’t define her, but they helped put her and Goddard on the map as a volleyball power in the state of New Mexico and become the team of the decade in the ‘80s.
During the ups and downs of her life, Smyth lived in Camelot. There were not many downtimes, until the loss of her father in 1983. She was able to bounce back and win again. There were matches where she would have to match wits with Hall of Fame coaches: Flo Valdez and Pam Allen, along with superb coaches: Brenda Stockton, Keith Lupold, and Bryan Masse to name a few.
Later in her career, Smyth would face debilitating health issues and live with physical pain — a pain so bad, she needed help getting up and to be able to stand. Smyth’s back was so bad, that she would have surgery to relieve the pain.
The end of her career didn’t end like she thought it would. The ending was the best of times and the worst of times. Smyth retired before she wanted to, but the end of her coaching career, was the beginning of her life — a new life. A life that gave her a deeper relationship with the Lord and a new purpose for living. For Smyth it wasn’t winning, it was about the competition and the kids she coached. The end of her coaching career and 16 years at Goddard moved her from a life of Camelot to eternal life with her Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Smyth was from Deming and was a standout athlete. She was a Title IX athlete before Title IX. Her high school basketball coach and math teacher was Frank Dooley. Smyth’s father, Fred, was a basketball referee with Dooley.
Frank Dooley would tell her not to get a physical education degree constantly, telling Smyth to get a math degree. He lamented that with a math degree she would be more desirable as a teacher and she could still coach. One night at her house, the basketball officials were having a meeting, and she was walking through when Dooley told her once again about majoring in math. Finally, having had enough, Smyth snapped back at him and said, “If you will get off my butt, I will get a double major.”
Another big influence in Smyth’s life at an early age was her high school gym teacher Mary Margaret Gowenlock. Gowenlock had the vision that women’s athletics was about to be big. Gowenlock taught Smyth to compete as hard as she could while playing, and to give it her all; but once the game was over, shake hands and be friends. Smyth made a lot of friends by competing hard.
Smyth was such a standout athlete in high school, that she was given the scholarship to play volleyball, basketball, and softball at New Mexico State University. Smyth dominated and was voted Player of the Year her junior year.
One of the saddest things to happen to Smyth was Gowenlock died before Smyth graduated from college.
“What she (Gowenlock) taught me stayed with me forever,” Smyth said.
Smyth started in Jal in 1974 and stayed there for three years. At Jal, she met Pam Allen and the two would form a rivalry and friendship that would last until this day. Smyth went to graduate school at Eastern New Mexico University.
“I’m one of those that I will fight you hard on the court,” Smyth said, “but when we get off the court, there is no reason we can’t be friends. I think that’s the way it needs to be.”
Smyth taught in Amarillo for one year and wasn’t happy. She came back and was an assistant basketball coach at Clovis. Allen called and told Smyth, that she was taking a leave of absence for a year at Goddard and wanted Smyth to take the job for a year.
In her first few years of teaching, Smyth was in the gym all day. One day a math teacher was sick, and the principal came to her and asked if she wouldn’t mind teaching math. He told her he could find a physical education teacher, but it is harder to find a math teacher.
“It was the best thing to ever happen to me,” Smyth said. “When I started teaching, I was in the gym the whole time. I found being in the classroom during the day, and the gym in the afternoon I had so much more energy to give to my players.”
Smyth didn’t realize that Goddard had a dynasty going at the time. She would tell her team at the start of the playoffs to go out and play the best they could because they had made it to state and it was all gravy.
Smyth would credit assistant coach Hayden Hill for calming her down. Later in her career, Goddard made it to state but would come up short. Smyth felt like they should have won in 1990. It was a close game with Moriarty. She felt like the team had a little self-doubt and was that turning point.
“When the pressure of having to win hit me,” Smyth said, “I think I put a little more pressure on the kids to win, which was not a good thing. It’s a winning program and they are going to expect you to win. I think I started putting pressure on myself and the more pressure I put on myself the harder it got for me.”
With the loss to Moriarty in 1990, Smyth would have back surgery. With all of her success, Smyth felt like something was missing. In 1990, she made a life-changing decision and rededicated her life to the Lord. Smyth is a member of Christ’s Church.
“When God closes a door,” Smyth said, “it’s because he has another open door for you.”
Today, Smyth looks after her mother, Georgene Smyth, and supports her former players. She will go watch her former player and current New Mexico Military Institute coach Shelby Forchtner’s team play.
Smyth is happy teaching fifth and sixth graders at the church about the Lord. Some days, Smyth will teach them the word of God. Some days they will make Christmas boxes to send overseas, and other times — they will pray over the city of Roswell.
With her time her own, some days Smyth will watch kids at the Yucca Center and other days she will golf. God has given Smyth a new dream in her heart.
What Smyth did in winning five championships in eight years, two second-place finishes and a third-place is Hall of Fame worthy. It has yet to be duplicated in Roswell and Chaves County in volleyball. More than the winning is the lives Smyth has touched.
“God gave me a great run,” Smyth said. “I’ve had a great life. I’ve played college sports and traveled. I was in the right place at the right time and I coached great kids. Most importantly, I found God.”
Sports Editor’s note: The Roswell Daily Record sports department will continue to profile the 2021 seniors for the rest of the year, even when they start playing again. This pandemic has made the sports department try to stay in the present but go back to uncover hidden gems of great teams, performances and games. We have written about the great volleyball coaches and Hall of Fame coaches such as Pam Allen, Flo Valdez and coaches like Bryan Masse among others. RDR Sports is trying to connect with former Goddard coach Bobby Bates for a future article.
Sports editor J.T. Keith can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 304, or firstname.lastname@example.org.