Matt Thissen knew the end of his coaching career was approaching, but he didn’t know it would be this soon.
The longtime Golden Valley High School girls volleyball and basketball coach has stepped down to take over as the school’s athletic director for Bill Hurst, who is retiring from the Merced Union High School District.
Giving up coaching wasn’t easy for Thissen.
“It’s very tough,” he said. “I think I’m ready to give it up, but I won’t know for sure until that first practice comes around. I’m confident both programs will be able to continue on with the success we have been having.”
Thissen was given a Sac-Joaquin Section Model Coach Award this spring. He’s been the Cougars’ volleyball coach since the school opened in 1994. In his 22 years, he’s compiled a 320-103 record, leading Golden Valley to nine Central California Conference championships.
Thissen coached the girls basketball team for 19 seasons, leading the Cougars to a 314-225 record with six CCC titles and a Division II section championship in 2000. Thissen has led Golden Valley to back-to-back conference titles the past two seasons.
Thissen was able to break the news to his players before the school year ended.
“We had a meeting to talk about summer workouts, and that is when I informed them Bill Hurst was leaving and I applied for and was offered the athletic director position,” Thissen said. “It still didn’t register for some of them, and that’s when I made it more clear that I wouldn’t be coaching anymore. There were a lot of tears.
“I promised them that everything would be OK. All my assistants are staying on in both programs. The only thing that will change is I won’t be there.”
Thissen started his coaching career at Chowchilla High in 1987. He coached volleyball and girls and boys basketball. He also spent time as an assistant baseball coach and assistant golf coach at Golden Valley.
There are other athletic director changes around the Merced Union High School District. Buhach Colony athletic director Scott Wine is headed to Atwater to assume the same position for the retiring Roddy Svendsen. Thunder golf coach Rich Cometta is taking over for Wine at Buhach Colony.
Thissen’s transition was unexpected.
“It happened extremely fast,” Thissen said. “Bill and I had a great relationship. We talked various times about how much longer he had, and I was under the impression he was going to do it two or three more years. Then, the district gave him an offer and the position became open. I thought being an athletic director would be something I’d like to do to wind up my career. The opportunity came, and I had to jump on it.”
More accolades for Nickles – Merced High’s Madilyn Nickles was selected to play in the inaugural Premier Girls Fastpitch High School All-American Game on July 28 at Bill Barber Park in Irvine.
Nickles will play for the West team against the East in a game that will feature 36 of the best high school graduates this year. The game will be televised on ESPNU at 7:30 p.m.
Nickles was named the Gatorade National Softball Player of the Year last week and recently was named a first-team All-American by USA Today. Nickles is training with the USA Women’s National Elite Team in Oklahoma City.
Nickles is a three-time Central California Conference MVP. This season, the 5-foot-8 pitcher-shortstop compiled a 20-5 record in the circle with a 0.63 ERA, leading the Bears (22-7) to their sixth consecutive CCC championship. She struck out 308 batters in 167 1/3 innings and threw three no-hitters, including one perfect game.
Nickles also batted .552 with 20 doubles, eight home runs and 27 RBIs and didn’t strike out in 104 plate appearances.
All-Star games this week – The seventh annual Merced County vs. Stanislaus County All-Star Baseball Game will be held at 7:15 p.m. Friday at Merced College. The Merced County team will be composed of players chosen from last week’s Merced County All-Star Game.
Merced County defeated Stanislaus County 3-2 last year for its first victory in the series.
The 43rd annual Central California Lions All-Star Football Game will be played at 7 p.m. Saturday at Tracy High’s Wayne Schneider Stadium.
Jace Alcazar (Buhach Colony), A.J. Stewart (Merced), Adam Herrera (Los Banos), David Walker (Los Banos) and Brandon LaBry (Gustine) will suit up for the South.