In the fall of 2007, Claire Gay took over a Decatur volleyball program searching for long-term success on the court.
Ten years, two state titles, five regional trips and more than 300 victories later, Gay is now turning over the program that she’s built into one of the state’s best.
Gay met with her team Friday afternoon and announced that she’s leaving to take the head volleyball coach and girls coordinator job at Aledo.
“It was a tough decision to leave and had to be the right decision,” Gay said. “There’s been some jobs come across the table [over the years] that didn’t feel right. It’s a chance to go to a good program and great school.
“You build a program from the ground up and put your heart and soul into it, it’s not easy to leave,” she said. “You ultimately have to do what’s best for your family.”
Along with her going to Aledo, her husband, Nicholas, is accepting the head volleyball coaching job at Weatherford.
“It’s a good opportunity for both of us,” Mrs. Gay said. “It gets us closer to family.”
The couple has 1-year-old twins that were born during the Lady Eagles’ trip to the region final in 2015.
Gay came to Decatur originally to teach and found herself taking over the volleyball program. Her team made the playoffs her first season, going 19-12 and laying the foundation for unparalleled success.
Decatur won its first outright district title in 2009 with a sweep of the league. The Lady Eagles won 67 straight district matches between 2008 and this season when the streak was snapped.
Under Gay, the Lady Eagles reached five straight region finals from 2012 to 2016. Decatur broke through regionals in 2013, capturing the 3A state title with a sweep of Bellville (25-21, 25-18, 27-25). The Lady Eagles returned to the top of the mountain in 2014 to win the 4A title with a four-set thrilling win over rival Argyle (25-14, 27-29, 26-24, 25-19).
“Claire has been a great asset to this district. She has established a volleyball program that’s been second to none,” said Decatur ISD Superintendent Rod Townsend. “She’s put Decatur ISD on the map when you’re talking volleyball. It speaks to her ability to coach and develop relationships with young ladies.”
Following the state titles and carrying twins, Gay guided a team with only two returning players that were on the floor for the championship match to a fifth straight region final.
Following the season, Gay was named Wise County Coach of the Year for a third time. She also was named National Federation of State High School Associations 2015 Texas Coach of the Year.
Gay was named Texas Sportswriters Coach of the Year in 2013 and 2014.
Gay closes her tenure at Decatur with a record of 324-111.
“To look at it as a whole from where we started to now, there’s been highs and lows,” Gay said. “But we’ve established a program and put Decatur on the map. We’ve instilled a work ethic and something that the girls are proud of. They are proud to wear the LEVB jersey.
“I was blessed to have athletes that worked hard and knew what it took. They had the drive and determination to get better.”
While wishing Gay the best, Townsend said the district will work to bring in a coach capable of building on the success.
“Like me, there’s no one person that is irreplaceable,” said Townsend, who is retiring at the end of the school year. “We will find someone to carry us forward. They are big shoes to fill, but we will be able to attract quality applicants with the success we’ve had.”