Christine Toon’s passion for volleyball was evident to anyone who follows West High athletics, or anyone who has seen year-round club volleyball take hold in Tracy.
The game, though, was just an avenue for Toon to reach out to the next generation as a mentor who wanted young people to learn how to be competitive, bond with like-minded competitors, and mostly to have fun playing a game they love.
It was that spirit that gained Toon the Sac-Joaquin Section’s Model Coach Award for 2020-21. The section honored Toon, who died on Sept. 25, 2020, of COVID-19 at age 54, for her 15 years as a varsity girls volleyball coach.
“It was all about the passion of the game. She wanted us to love the sport,” said her daughter, Megan Toon. “It didn’t matter if we had no money or all of the money in the world. If we loved volleyball we were going to play volleyball. She just loved the sport, and she loved the kids. She wanted to make sure that nothing stood in a player’s way.”
West High Principal Zachary Boswell nominated Toon for the award, and in doing so told the section that he regrets not nominating her earlier.
“Perhaps her most impressive quality was her commitment to being fair and caring to all students,” he said. “She treated everyone with fairness and respect. She was an exemplary model of taking the high road and caring for students.”
She also coached the West boys volleyball team for two years, including a championship season in its inaugural year, and coached the West High boys tennis team for three years.
Will DeBoard, assistant commissioner for the Sac-Joaquin Section, said that Christine Toon was also nominated as one of the California Interscholastic Federation’s Model Coaches as well. CIF spokeswoman Rebecca Brutlag said that award will most likely be announced in April.
Megan Toon said she expects her mother will be remembered for her commitment not just to volleyball, but to the players that she had on her teams.
Christine Toon graduated from Tracy High in 1984 and went on to play volleyball at San Joaquin Delta College and then the University of Nevada, Reno. She returned to Tracy after college to become a coach at Tracy High, and later went to West High to coach volleyball.
“She taught us the skills, but she also taught us to fall in love with the game,” Megan Toon said. “My sister (Lauren, a senior at West) and I love the game. I coach the game and Lauren is still playing the game.”
Megan said that her mother also saw volleyball, and athletic competition in general, as a prominent place on the path to bigger things. She mentioned a player on West’s new boys team, who returned to visit Christine when she was in the hospital last year to let her know that his participation on the team gave him the confidence to join the military after high school.
“You just see a difference in kids that my mom coached. She wants you to get better, wants you to learn the right way of doing it, and she wants you to have fun doing it.”
Her founding of the Valley Rebels year-round travel team was an example of how Christine sought to bring the game to as many local youths as possible.
“That was just to get a club going in Tracy for Tracy kids. It was really about learning the technique and learning the basics and having fun, and it was a family,” said Megan, adding that the club was also a place where players made volleyball a lifestyle.
“Some of these kids started out as Valley Rebels and we coached them all the way up until they graduated high school. We have a few that are at big-name colleges and a few that are at Division 2 and 3 colleges, but they all end up going to college and playing, and they started out at Valley Rebels.”
Megan Toon is now the volleyball coach at West High, where she was also a player up until graduating in 2014, and said she will finish the season that her mother started last year.
Christine Toon is the second West High coach to get the SJS Model Coach Award. Tennis coach Ben Tsukiji was honored in 2010-11.
• Contact Bob Brownne at email@example.com, or call 209-830-4227.