Natalie Throneberry has her pregame checklist:

• Pass out the chewing gum — check.

• Making sure chairs have space between them — check.

• Keeping your feet clear in case coach Steve Haaser goes to stomping — check.

• Waiting for pearls of wisdom — check.

Throneberry has had her hands in Southside's volleyball imprint for nearly two decades — three years as a player, three years before that in the school's successful junior high program and the last nine as one of Haaser's assistant coaches.

The wisdom? It's free — and it's never-ending.

The good, the nerve-racking.

"He's (Haaser) so calm and me and Natalie are a nervous wreck," second-year Southside coach Payton Northington said. "We're over here freaking out."

They're also learning.

Haaser and his two assistant coaches, both former Southside players, will be front row and center Saturday when the Mavs (31-3) face Conway (28-7) at 11 a.m. in the 6A state championship game.

Southside has beaten Conway twice this season, including a 3-0 sweep at Southside Gym.

The Mavericks have won 26 of 27 matches in all.

And Northington, just six seasons removed as a former Southside player, will be taking notes.

"I literally just soak in everything he says," she said. "During timeouts I'm like, 'Just what exactly is he saying?' This is a learning moment for me, with this being my second year of coaching and my first year of coaching volleyball. It's a learning curve."

"Natalie and Payton are unbelievable; they're both great," Haaser said. "To have the two of them there, it's great for our team. The girls love them and respect, and they both played at a high level in college.

"But they're mainly just good people and good role models."

The former Natalie Lundquiest, Throneberry won two titles as a player and one as a coach. Payton Hamilton Northington was a freshman at UAFS when the Mavericks won their last state title — a 3-0 sweep over Bentonville in 2013.

Both have been blessed to be in the midst of great coaching.

Throneberry played college at Arkansas State and the University of Central Arkansas before taking Ann Fitzhugh's place on the bench in 2010.

"When I came in as kind of a wild college player, my expectation was that practice should run like college practices," Throneberry said. "He (Haaser) really taught me to take a step back, and look at the girls and help them get better. He explained that they don't have to practice at the level of a college player, they can still be a kid."

Northington's coaching tree is impressive. It includes UAFS coach Jane Sargent, her longtime assistant and current Northside coach Matt Waack, and Greenwood coaches Jennifer and Tim Golden — her Fort Smith Junior coaches.

"I played under so many great coaches," Northington said. "The Goldens, I played under them, I played under Matt Waack, and then coach Sargent and coach Haaser.

"It's incredible to say that you've played for the best."

Northington and twin sister Taylor began their volleyball careers under Lorri Lucas at Chaffin Junior High.

But it was her time with the Goldens that was key to her formidable Junior Olympic years.

"I look back now, as a coach, and wonder, 'What would they have done in that situation?' I look back at their coaching drills and what they did," Northington said. "It's a whole other perspective being on the coaching side, verses being on the playing side. 

"Those are things you didn't think about when you were playing."

Throneberry earned a degree in elementary education. She was a vibrant, successful teacher at Fort Smith Cavanaugh before making the gut-wrenching decision to become Haaser's full-time assistant.

"I cried my eyes out when I finally left," she said. "(But) it was enough for me to leave a job I loved; I loved teaching elementary school. The (daily) schedule was hard. But this is such a special program. It's been a special staff to be a part of.

"It was worth making the change."