For a while now, the John Curtis Patriots have been one of the best Division IV volleyball programs in the state.
On Tuesday, the school took a major step toward continuing that tradition.
Juli Hartley was named the head volleyball coach at Curtis, after serving “on and off” as an assistant at the school for 11 years. Before that, Hartley was coach at Sacred Heart,where her teams won four state championships and also at Hannan, before that school moved from St. Bernard Parish to St. Tammany Parish after Hurricane Katrina. She also coached one year at First Assembly Academy before it closed.
Hartley stepped back from being a head coach to be a “fulltime mom,” but ultimately felt the itch to return to a head job, especially at a school such as Curtis. Previous coach Dawn Curtis stepped down from the top job because she is following husband Johnny Curtis to Indiana, where he recently took an assistant football coaching job at Ball State University.
“I thought it would be difficult to invest the time and effort into being a head coach after my second son was born (in 1998,)” Hartley said. “If you want to do either of those things right, you have to be totally invested. So it would have been impossible for me to do both.”
But when her sons Mitchell and Joshua started attending Curtis, Hartley said she started teaching geography and P.E. there because she wanted to be close to them. It wasn’t long before Dawn Curtis had Hartley on the sideline helping coach the Patriots volleyball team.
“(Dawn) established a program that obviously works,” Hartley said. “What I can do is bring knowledge of the game the same way she did. When I step in as head coach, we won’t lose anything there. We can maintain and hopefully move forward.”
Hartley said the desire to be a head coach again on the high school level was hard to ignore. The fact that her sons are now 22 and 17 helped her make the decision.
“I am blessed to have this opportunity,” she said. “I’m excited that the Curtis family thinks I can do the job. It crosses your mind sometimes that you may never get the opportunity again.”
Curtis Athletic Director J.T. Curtis was pleased to give her that chance. The Patriots have reached the postseason for 10 consecutive years, including five trips to the quarterfinals, and three to the semifinals.
“Juli Hartley is perfectly suited to continue the progress of our volleyball program,” he said. “Her record speaks for itself. Our girls will benefit from her vast experience.”
Hartley also is credited with helping start the volleyball and softball programs at Hannan in that school’s infancy, as well as being a key player in the start of one of the first boys volleyball clubs in the metro New Orleans area.
Before she guided teams at Sacred Heart to more than 200 wins, Hartley earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Southeastern Louisiana. She is a native of New Orleans.