Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Tribute to Our Seniors

There are a number of topics on my mind on the day after our last match for the 2011 season, but I want to put all of them on hold in order to take some time to reflect on the careers of our two seniors, Kiersten Hammock and Claire Scott.

As a coach, one of the greatest joys of my job is having a front row seat to watch these wonderful young women grow and mature over their four years of college.  Every year, we greet a new group of freshmen, and we say goodbye to another group of seniors.  In the time that passes between their first pre season practice as a freshman and their last game in a Viking jersey, each one of them leave an indelible mark on my life and challenge me to be a better coach every day.  Fortunately, senior night does not really mean goodbye though.  I look forward to continuing to share in their joys and frustrations for years to come as our Berry Volleyball Alumni family is just

I am so proud to say that I am Kiersten and Claire's coach!  They are leaving a tremendous legacy for this team.  At the risk of embarrassing them greatly, I wanted to take a few minutes to reflect on each of their careers in a Viking jersey.

Kiersten Hammock #14 - aka Kiki - MB from Athens, GA

Kiersten was already a freshman at Berry before I was even aware of her existence.  It was in the spring of her freshmen year that several of our other players came to me to tell me that there was a girl playing intramurals that was pretty good.  At their urging and my request, she finally came to see me.  We decided that she would come to a spring practice with the team as a tryout.  The one day tryout turned into two days and then into a week.  Finally, I asked her to come up to the office to meet with me, and I told her we would love for her to join our team.  Today, we both laugh at her utter surprise and lack of any response except "Ok".  She practiced with us all spring and then returned in the fall for her first collegiate season.  To say that her sophomore year was a bit challenging for both of us would be putting it mildly.  The two of us seemed to be completely incapable of communicating with each other.  At the conclusion of the season, we finally sat down and had a very open conversation where we both gained insight on the other's perspective.  She learned that my belief in her was beyond what she even imagined, and I learned that her guarded demeanor was completely rooted in her perfectionism and high expectations.

Since that first fall, it has been such a joy to watch Kiki grow by leaps and bounds as a volleyball player, and as a team leader.  There were points during her junior year when she still questioned why she was playing and if all of the sacrifice was worth it.  So, to watch her shine in her final season as a Viking (as a leader on and off the court) and to watch her pass on all of those lessons learned to this young team has been so incredibly rewarding for me to watch.  As her senior season was coming to a close, she set one career record after another (16 kills versus Covenant, followed by 19 kills versus Susquehanna and an All Tournament and Player of the Week selection).  We talked a lot this season about 'finishing well', and I can't think of a better way to describe Kiersten's career!

Claire Scott #10 - aka Yogi - OH from Portland, OR

When I took the job as Head Coach of Berry Volleyball, Claire had already committed to come play for the Vikings.  I met her for the first time at her summer orientation and saw her play for the first time when she arrived on campus for pre season.  During that first pre season is when she earned the nickname that I have a feeling will stick with her forever.  On a team laser tag outing, one of the upperclassmen decided that Claire reminded her of Yogi Bear.  From that point forward, she has been known as Yogi.  It was obvious right away that Claire was going to have a big impact on our program.  Even as a freshman, she played in almost every match, and she had a big impact on our defense and serving in a year where we had five seniors and won a conference championship.  It wasn't until much later that I would learn that Claire struggled that year trying to figure out if Berry was the right place for her.  She struggled so much that she even considered not coming back for her sophomore season.  Oh, I am so happy that she did!  She continued to grow as a player through her sophomore year and became even more of a go to player for us.  More importantly, she made better connections with her teammates and coaches and truly enjoyed the experience.

As a junior, Claire stepped into a leadership role when she was voted as one of the team captains.  Similar to Kiki, Claire also has a tendency towards perfectionism (okay that may be a slight understatement), and she struggled throughout her junior year with playing up to her own expectations.  She had a great year by all accounts, but she was often frustrated.  One of the funnier moments involving her handling frustration came after she and I had gone to lunch to find some coping strategies for when she got into that frustrated state.  She decided that she wanted me to send her to run if she got into one of those states during practice or a match.  Her teammates were unaware of our agreement, so you can imagine their surprise when I sent her off to run between sets one and two of our match against our biggest rival, Shorter.  She came back after two full minutes of sprinting the hallways of Shorter dripping with sweat but completely refocused and ready to perform.

As a senior, Claire stepped up in every way possible.  One of the requests our coaches made of her was  to be more vocal than she is by nature.  She took that request to heart and was consistently one of our most vocal players this fall.  To say she finished her career on a high note is putting it mildly.  She surpassed 1,000 career digs and 1,000 career points, led our team in kills, and was only 8 aces away from breaking Berry's career ace record.  Along the way, she earned All Tournament and Player of the Week honors and had 13 double-double performances!

It has become a tradition for our team to have a highlight video honoring our seniors that we play in the concourse before our senior night match and show the team during our pre-game talk.  Below is the video from last night.  Enjoy!