For years, Anna Marie Milligan watched her father teach Little Leaguers about baseball and life thereafter.
Joe Milligan even had a ballpark dedicated in his honor.
Now, after 40 years of coaching every girls sport but soccer at Santa Fe High School, Anna Marie Milligan is following that same honorable path.
Today, the Lady Indians’ longtime mentor, most notably on the volleyball court each of those 40 seasons, will be having Santa Fe High School’s gymnasium renamed in her honor.
“I don’t know how I can put into words how I feel,” said Milligan, who coached the Lady Indians from 1977 to 2017. “I’m very, very honored, honored and overwhelmed at the thought the school and community think so much of my time there at Santa Fe.
“I am excited and honored, very.”
Eight hundred fifty-three volleyball wins, including four district championships, 21 playoff appearances and one state semifinal berth against New Braunfels Canyon in 1989, prompted school board member John Rothermel to find a lasting way to recognize Milligan’s accomplishments.
Naming the facility after the Indians’ legendary coach only made sense.
“It’s just something you don’t hear very often,” Milligan said of the gymnasium dedication. “Oh, no, never did I think this would happen to me. It’s pretty awesome.”
Milligan, a four-sport letterman at North Texas State University and Mean Green Eagle Award winner in softball before joining the Indians’ coaching staff, actually found out what was in the making when the school district was forced to replace the gym floor totally destroyed by Tropical Storm Harvey.
Volleyball and basketball games already were being played at the newly-named Anna Marie Milligan Gymnasium on the “Coach Mill” hardwoods.
Come this afternoon that announcement becomes official.
“The kids, the relationships, the friendships I made, the camaraderie the coaching staff had, Coach (Joe) Raitano, he was one who gave me my opportunity, so I am ever indebted to him for that, all those people that left such an impact on me, that’s what I remember most about my days at Santa Fe High School,” Milligan said. “I loved the people I worked with. I loved the people I worked for, mostly the kids.
“It’s always been about the kids. When they come back after 10, 15 years and tell me they learned so much, and not just volleyball, about being a good person. That makes you feel better than any win-loss record. I was fortunate to go off on a positive.”
Milligan, in fact, still has close ties with many an ex -player, including members of her first few teams, one of those being Rothermel’s daughter, Lori, Milligan’s first-ever trainer.
“We meet as a group, go out to eat supper once a month,” Milligan said.
The 40-year alumni roster also includes Randie Paoli Martindale, who not only played for Milligan, but also coached alongside her. Milligan even coached Martindale’s daughter, Lindsey.
“I have had a few legacies and a few siblings that I’ve coached,” Milligan, an O’Connell High School Buccaneer Hall of Fame charter member for volleyball, said with a gratifying smile.
Fittingly, the gymnasium dedication also will feature an alumni volleyball game played by several of Milligan’s proteges.
“I learned from my dad how to treat kids, to treat them fairly, to make sure they did the little things right, how they treated each other on the field and off the field; for me, on the court and off the court,” Milligan said.
“I wanted my players to be humble in winning and treat their opponent after defeating them with respect. I also wanted them to respect the gym they were playing in, that they spend a lot of time there, to defend that court. That was very important to me.”
Milligan said her main goal for the three Santa Fe High School gymnasiums she coached in was to always be a “role model.”
“I feel like I taught my kids more than volleyball,” Milligan said. “I hope I have.”
Anna Marie Milligan Gymnasium in bold letters for years to come solidifies she has, indeed.