OTTUMWA — An event put together at the last minute last week has the markings of the beginning of tradition for the Ottumwa High School volleyball team.

“Every year, the varsity team has done a ‘pink out’ night, but it’s been a normal match,” said Laura Goemaat, assistant volleyball coach.

Normally, she said, that match would be against one of the Des Moines teams in the CIML Metro with Ottumwa. However, with their dispute with the state over return to learn requirements, Des Moines schools teams aren’t playing this fall, and the OHS team has had no matches in a couple of weeks. Plus, there was no final home match on the horizon for the team.

So that’s when Goemaat took inspiration from a friend in the Knoxville district, which holds a “huge” Coaches vs. Cancer event. “I thought we should do that. It turned out really well, so cool,” she said.

The pink out event held Oct. 8 was put together essentially the night before. “We didn’t realize how much the girls really wanted to have that pink out night,” Goemaat said.

Instead of matching up against a conference foe, the team battled coaches from various OHS sports: Joe Vandenberg, girls basketball and football; Cooper Smith, high school baseball and middle school football; Leanna White, girls tennis; Luke Goemaat, varsity baseball, football and strength and conditioning; Mallary Simmer, volleyball and softball; Kenzie Eaton, volleyball; Laura Goemaat, volleyball; and Patricia Mulholland, volleyball.

“[The guys] didn’t help us much. It was an intimidation thing more than anything,” Goemaat said.

“They were so excited. We had a legit lineup and rotation. We had a legit volleyball game,” she added. “We only did one thing that wasn’t legal, but the girls said it was OK.”

Admission to the event was a freewill donation for breast cancer research. An oversized pink ribbon hung on the wall for people to attach messages to breast cancer patients as well. And, of course, all the players wore pink.

Goemaat guessed about 150 people were in attendance. “It was a pretty good crowd for being last minute,” she said.

But now she’s looking at it becoming an annual event. “If we did it again, we would have more time to organize and publicize the event,” Goemaat said.

“I think it is a great tradition,” said Luke Goemaat. “It was a lot of fun, and it’s a great way to raise money for cancer awareness, too.”

Laura Goemaat said Vandenberg, the varsity girls basketball coach, enjoyed it so much he said he might look at doing something similar during that season.

“It was a fun event. I just think volleyball’s a good sport to play against coaches because there’s no contact, no running,” she said. “The girls really enjoyed playing the coaches specifically. It’s a special relationship they have with their coaches.”

— Features Editor Tracy Goldizen can be reached via email at or followed on Twitter @CourierTracy.


Tracy Goldizen is the Courier's features and magazine editor, leading production of the award-winning "Ottumwa Life" and the Courier's other magazine offerings. She began work with the Courier on the copy desk.

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