The gym lights blare. The white ball volleys from one side to the other. Sweat drips from faces to floor. It is a close game. Now it is time for Head Coach Alison West to crack a joke.
“I try to emulate how my players react to the game, if I’m angry and tight then that’s how my team will play,” West said. “If I’m loose and relaxed, then they’ll be loose and relaxed.”
West began coaching the varsity volleyball team this year, leading the team to an 10 – 4 record.
She has been coaching for a total of five years at Absolute Volleyball Club and College Preparatory School. Prior to her coaching career, West played volleyball at Albany High School and Chicago State University.
“That’s why I have such a strong work ethic, because of the sports I played,” she said.
West’s coaching philosophy reflects what she has learned from sports. Unlike traditional rigorous coaching regimes, her style of coaching is centered around learning life lessons, West said.
“I always use athletics as life skills, so whatever they are going through in the game I use it to teach them a lesson,” she said.
Additionally, West has taught her players the importance of working hard and that the key to success is persevering even when things may seem difficult, junior Dina Gallacher said.
Knowing that the team came off of a 10 – 15 season, West mentally prepared them for every game situation. At the beginning of the season, each player created a poster with a cue word to think of every time they made a mistake, West said.
“When I was in high school I would sing Backstreet Boys in my head and that would put me at ease,” West said. “I wasn’t caught up in making mistakes and all the things I did wrong, so I could play better volleyball.”
West said her coaching style is very relaxed and heavily emphasizes the importance of enjoying the sport and having fun on the court.
“[West] just lets us play and has lots of faith in us as a team and individuals,” senior Claire Devroede said.
Many players attribute the team’s success to West, sophomore Daniela Skov said.
“It was Alison coming in here and knowing how much we suffered from last season, as well her knowing how to bring the team together that has made the team really successful,” Skov said.
The team’s leadership has improved as well. In addition to West and Assistant Coach Daren True, the captains have really stepped up, sophomore Kate Goldberg said.
“Our captains have better leadership this year and are really focussed,” Goldberg said. “We’re all devoted and want to succeed.”
Now that the players are having fun and finding success on the court, West said she ultimately hopes to take the team to the North Coast Section championships.
“It’s up to them how far and how long they want the season to go,” she said. “I just give them the tools they need, and everything they do on the court is all them.”