LILBURN — At Parkview football games, the Godfree girls scatter to different areas of the stadium.
Jordan, a senior, and Brooke, a sophomore, sit with different friend groups, while their mother Jenell spends time with other adults. The Friday evening routine is a social event — it is high school football in the South — but it just means more to the Godfrees, who all watch the game intently because the head coach is Eric Godfree, Jenell’s husband and the father of Jordan and Brooke.
“With my dad coaching, I love that I know what’s going on,” Jordan said. “Just growing up as a football coach’s daughter, I can tell you what’s going on and it’s great. That keeps me very invested in the game. I feel like some kids want to stand in the student section to talk to their friends, but I’m standing in the student section to cheer for my dad and his team. That’s what I’m doing.”
While they split up to watch football, the trio spends plenty of time with each other the remainder of the fall sports season. Jordan and Brooke play for the volleyball team coached by their mother, the other Coach Godfree at Parkview.
Together, the three Godfrees have helped Parkview’s volleyball program win this year’s Region 4-AAAAAAA regular-season and tournament championships and lock up a No. 1 seed for next week’s state playoffs. Jenell was voted the region coach of the year last week, while Jordan was selected as the region’s player of the year.
“I’m just proud of them. I’m just proud to coach them,” Jenell said. “It’s something we will remember for a lifetime. Just to be able to have the opportunity to influence them and their friends and to invest in the things they love to do. That’s the best thing as a mom for sure.”
Jenell played volleyball at Presbyterian College in her native South Carolina, but didn’t push the sport on her daughters. She was a high school head coach, at rival Brookwood, when she got pregnant with Jordan and took a coaching hiatus to raise three children — Jenell and Eric also have a middle-schooler, Jake. Eric’s busy fall schedule as a football coach made volleyball coaching a tough double for the family.
While Eric was the head football coach at Loganville for a decade, his daughters found other extracurricular avenues. Both tried track. Brooke did ballet for eight years. Jordan gave basketball a shot.
“You kind of always hope (your children) are going to like what you like, but it just turned out that way, that they liked the sport,” Jenell said.
When Jenell started a middle school volleyball program at Trickum, the Parkview feeder school where she taught for 15 years, her daughters signed up as volleyball rookies. Jordan was an eighth-grader and Brooke was a sixth-grader.
“I think I’ve always been kind of like, ‘Mom played volleyball and I think that would be fun,’” Jordan said. “I had an older cousin and she played in high school and I went to a few of her games and thought, ‘Oh, that looks fun.’ When we came here, our first summer here after moving here from Loganville, one of my lifelong best friends, we came to a Parkview volleyball camp together. … That’s kind of where the fire started and where it got going.”
The Godfrees and their friends, many from Trickum Middle’s program, have revived Parkview volleyball. Two years ago, the young Panthers went 10-29. They went 30-16 last season, Jenell’s first as head coach. They are 27-13 this year.
“It’s been very fun,” Brooke said of this season. “It’s going great. I just love every single person on our team. It’s been fun because we’re really good, we’re winning games and we all have fun together.”
Both Jordan and Brooke play setter, like their mother.
“I was a setter and they’re both setters, so yes I can see (similarities with how I played),” Jenell said. “My mom especially, she’s like, ‘When I look at Jordan, I just see you out there on the court.’ I think they both see the game well. They’ve been around the game a long time. They understand the game and strategies even. That’s just a product of being coaches’ kids, just understanding sports and being involved and being involved in the community and being involved with all kinds of athletes from different sports. They’ve grown up in the gym, on the court and on the field.”
While both are setters, Jordan is the more vocal, older sister. She has been a fixture in the lineup, and her younger sister also has stepped up this season, particularly during a stretch when the Panthers’ other senior setter was out with an injury. That was an especially neat experience for Jenell, who fondly recalled watching Brooke set up Jordan for a kill.
“There are some similarities in that they’re both setters, so I feel like their skills are similar,” Jenell said. “They’re both very good servers. I would say Jordan is more aggressive than Brooke. Brooke is ‘I want to make sure everybody’s okay.’ She’s the one who wants to make everybody happy, doing the very best. They’re both great players and bring their own personalities to the game. I’m proud of both of them for sure.”
Brooke’s varsity experience this year will help in 2021 when Parkview’s two senior setters, including her sister, are in college.
“I definitely try to work as hard as (Jordan),” Brooke said. “She definitely does work very hard. I try to do my best as well. Honestly, I think she’s more like, ‘I will tell you what you need to do.’ I’m more like, ‘I just want to encourage you and make sure you’re okay.’ That’s kind of the difference between us.”
While Brooke gets two more high school seasons with her mother, Jordan’s high school career is winding down. It will last as long as the Panthers can keep winning at state.
“I think it has been a really good experience for me just because I love my mom and she’s a great coach,” Jordan said. “Just being with my friends and my mom, it just brings everything together. She can be mom to my friends and mom to me. Or coach to me and coach to my friends. It’s just been really nice. It’s definitely hard seeing her cry at special times like Senior Night. I know last game her and I are both going to be a mess.”
Her mother agreed.
“I don’t even want to talk about (the last match),” Jenell said. “That will probably be one of the hardest things.”
In the meantime, the Godfrees plan to soak up every moment together during this memorable school year, whether they are together on the court or apart at a football game. Parkview, also their father’s alma mater, is a special place for all of them.
“It definitely gives you a different perspective, just being so embedded in school spirt and the community,” Jordan said. “It’s part of us. We are always here and we’re always cheering for Parkview and we’re always wearing Parkview things. Even Jake playing for Mountain Park, he wears the jersey. We all wear the jersey. It’s just very special.”