The Falcon | Volume 83, Issue 53
First SPU volleyball coach still involved in athletics
By , Staff Reporter
Published: November 14 2012
Twenty-six years ago, Royal Brougham Pavilion was forever changed when JoAnn Atwell-Scrivner came into town, bringing with her the passion necessary to start the volleyball program.
Atwell-Scrivner was born with a love for athletics. As a middle schooler at Ripon Junior High School in California Atwell-Scrivner joined a friend on the fencing team for casual fun, which ended up leading to a trip to the Junior Olympics. On top of her fencing talent, she was also committed to playing field hockey, softball, volleyball and basketball throughout high school. Despite her involvement in athletics, it was not easy for Atwell-Scrivner to play sports. This was 40 years ago, when women were looked down upon for high participation in sports. Title IX was winding its way through legislative and judicial systems.
“Fortunately, my physical education teacher and coach (Charlotte Horton) was very active in the movement and believed women should have access to sport,” Atwell-Scrivner said.
When the time came to proceed from high school to college, Atwell-Scrivner decided to leave the Golden State and head up north to Salem, Ore,. where she attended Willamette College. While at Willamette she continued to explore her passion for sports. Just as success had come easy for Atwell-Scrivner in fencing as a young teenager, success came easy for her as a young adult. She played not just one sport at Willamette, but three. She competed all four years in volleyball, field hockey and softball.
“Volleyball was my favorite sport and really became a passion for me,”Atwell-Scrivner said.
In 1998, Atwell-Scrivner was inducted into Willmatte’s Athletes Hall of Fame.
Atwell-Scrivner’s passion for volleyball stuck with her through school as she went on to obtain her master’s degree in health sciences from Whitworth College in 1979, just three years after she had graduated Willamette. She immediately got a job coaching volleyball at the school, where she remained until 1984.
“Whitworth took a chance on a 24-year-old head women’s volleyball coach and that is how my college coaching career started,” Atwell-Scrivner said.
She helped to build a national-caliber NAIA team while she was there, receiving the District Coach of the Year award for NAIA. To this day, she has the second-most wins as a head coach in school history.
In 1984, Atwell-Scrivner took a hiatus from coaching as she settled down into married life. A little under two years after she had finished her career as a Whitworth’s head coach, and while she was pregnant with her first son Jake, Atwell-Scrivner got the call from Seattle Pacific University.
“I was unemployed and truly thinking of a different direction,” Atwell-Scrivner said. “But it sounded like kind of an interesting challenge.”
Atwell-Scrivner and her family made the trek over to Seattle where her enthusiasm for the idea of a volleyball program immediately won her the job as head coach. Athlough she had a job, she lacked an adequate facility. The gym was not set up for volleyball. The floor had no holes in it for the volleyball poles, in a gymnasium that was half its current size. Practices were squeezed in wherever possible, and there was no team, so Atwell-Scrivner had to scout an entire volleyball squad. One player came from the tennis team, another from the basketball team, even more from out-of-state players who had never considered Seattle Pacific beforehand.
“I loved watching them improve and become passionate about the game,” Atwell-Scrivner said. “When I close my eyes, I can see a variety of matches and competitions.”
Atwell-Scrivner believes that none of this would have happened without the constant support of her family.
“All of this would never have been possible without my husband’s support,” Atwell-Scrivner said. “Without the support of Rich and my son Jake, none of this would have been possible.”
Throughout Atwell-Scrivner’s illustrious career as a head coach, she always treasured time spent mentoring students. When her coaching career ended in 1999, after building a record of 260-233 with five district championship or conference postseason appearances, Atwell-Scrivner knew she wanted to stay at Seattle Pacific.
Professor Atwell-Scrivner continues to serve on the school’s staff as the chair of Health Services. She remains in her office at Royal Brougham, where she first settled 26 years ago and is often found in one of the surrounding classrooms, benefitting the world of athletics through advocating health awareness. She can also be found in the bleachers of Royal Brougham, watching the program she created nearly three decades ago.
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