Briarwood names former national coach of the year Chris Camper as new volleyball coach

Published 1:00 pm Wednesday, November 29, 2023

By ANDREW SIMONSON | Sports Editor

NORTH SHELBY – After taking time away from the game to spend with family, one of the most successful coaches in the Birmingham area will return to the volleyball sideline recharged and with his family by his side.

Briarwood Christian School officially named former Hoover volleyball coach and national coach of the year Chris Camper as its new varsity volleyball head coach on Wednesday, Nov. 29, ending a two-year retirement from coaching.

“My family and I are extremely excited and honored to be joining the Briarwood family,” Camper said. “We are truly committed to building a volleyball program through our Christian principles that the Briarwood community will be proud of.”

In addition to his time with the Hoover Buccaneers, Camper served as the head coach at Spain Park and Mountain Brook during his 25-year coaching career. He amassed a 772-304 record during that time, including 11 Elite 8 appearances, seven Final 4 appearances, three state championship game appearances and one Class 7A state championship, which came with Hoover in 2020.

Camper saw great success during that 2020 season, not just winning the state title, but guiding the Bucs to a No. 4 national ranking as well. He was named the National Coach of the Year by Volleyball Magazine and the Regional Coach of the Year by the American Volleyball Coaches Association.

He retired following the 2021 season to spend more time with his wife and three children and to work more on the family farm.

Now, he is recharged from his two-year absence from volleyball and will return to the court with his family by his side, as his wife will join the Lions coaching staff and his two daughters will transfer to Briarwood.

Camper said that Briarwood provided the perfect opportunity to get him back on the court by allowing him to coach while remaining retired from teaching and giving him time to be with his family.

“I think more than anything else was that I think they get it,” Camper said. “They understand perspectives and priorities, and they worked really hard over the last couple of months to create a situation that allowed me to still check all the boxes, keeping my family first and spending that precious time with them and yet also coach. So, I’m still going to stay retired from teaching and be able to focus on volleyball and still have time with my family. They created the perfect storm that they could get me out of retirement.”

School officials were proud to welcome a nationally acclaimed head coach who displays and models Christian character to the program.

“We could not be more excited to have coach Camper joining our staff,” said Briarwood Christian School Women’s Athletic Director Sara Wilson. “His heart for developing athletes as young women, as players, and as women of faith has been evident from our first conversation, and we truly believe that is our purpose in education here at Briarwood. Chris is honest and direct, and he has been super transparent with us from the start. He will be a great addition to our school community, and our volleyball program will certainly thrive under his leadership.”

Prior to Camper’s hire, Carly Cline served as the interim head coach for the entirety of the 2023 season. Cline guided the Lions to a 33-18 record capped off by a runner-up finish in Class 6A, Area 8 and a berth in the super regionals.

Looking beyond just last season, though, Briarwood’s history as a volleyball powerhouse in Class 5A is what made this opportunity so appealing to Camper because he knows that the program has been to the mountaintop before and has the ability to return.

“I think a lot of people know Carly did an amazing job last year with this team and they had a really good year,” Camper said. “But this is different than anything I’ve ever been to. This is a tradition-rich volleyball program. They dominated for a decade and really were a dynasty in volleyball. Barry Walker, who kind of built this program, is a legend. So, this program can get it done.”

Despite his and Briarwood’s past success, he isn’t necessarily chasing trophies as much as he wants to chase the improvement that will lead to successful results like state championships.

“As far as taking it to the next level or results and how can we get to the Elite 8, I’ll be honest, I’ve never looked at that,” Camper said. “Even when I was at Hoover and we won a championship, I never talked about winning championships. I just wanted to get better every day. We’re not a results-oriented group and if the girls stay focused on getting better every day, then when it’s all over, we’ll look back and we’ll be pleased with the result.”

He believes that philosophy will work well even with the differences between Hoover and Briarwood simply because the formula to winning is the exact same no matter what team he coaches.

“I’ve built a couple programs before, and one thing is always the same,” Camper said. “You’re not going to get from where you are to where you want to be doing anything different. It’s still going to be hard work. You got to be committed to a way to do things the right way and you got to go as hard as you can go.

“And there’s no easy way. The athlete will be different looking. The numbers, the depth will be different. But what wins volleyball games is still going to win volleyball games. We’ve got to be better than our opponents that day in execution and we’ve got to outwork them. We got to dominate our opponents every day. So, that part hasn’t changed.”