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Taking The Lead

Feb. 6, 2011

By Jon Cooper
Sting Daily

Coaching looks so easy.

Put six players on the floor at a time, bark out a few orders, blow the whistle to start play, clap your hands when things go good, blow the whistle and stop play and tell/yell when things don’t.

Seems easy enough, right?

Georgia Tech volleyball outside hitters Monique Mead and Bailey Hunter are learning that being on the other side of the whistle isn’t necessarily such a snap and certainly not something just anyone can do.

Mead and Hunter, who were named All-ACC in 2010 and will be heading out to Colorado Springs later this month for U.S. National Team Open Tryouts, have learned that while teaming up as co-coaches for Tempo One Volleyball’s 16-year-old team.

“We’re like half of a head coach put together,” said Hunter, who will play her senior season this year, coming off her first All-ACC season. “Both of us want a head coaching position and have so much to give. [Mo’s] more an analytical person and I can relate to the girls, talking to them, motivating them, so we work really well.”

“Bailey is more of the talker in the huddles. In practice, we can both run it,” added Mead, who heads into her junior season following back-to-back All-ACC seasons and being named to COBRA Magazine’s All-Southeast Region. “She’s really good at talking to the girls and encouraging them. I’m better at like explaining stuff to them, whether it’s a drill or where they’re supposed to go in rotation. I do a lot of the writing out where they’re supposed to go in each rotation and just like the technical stuff. She’s really good at encouraging them and making it in a way that’s kind of funny, because she’s hilarious. She’s such a funny person. She can connect with them really well on that level.”

Head coach Tonya Johnson supports her stars’ venture into the coaching side.

“I think it’s great that they are working with young players who look up to them as role models,” said Johnson. “It will also help them to get a better understanding of the coaching aspect of things instead of just a players’ aspect.”

They’ve developed a much greater appreciation for Johnson and have found themselves adopting many of her principles.

“We coach and I’m like ‘Oh my gosh, those are Tonya’s direct words,'” said Hunter, with a laugh. “We’re two mini-Tonyas. Like everything we say is everything she says to us in practice — the same coaching cues, the type of passing, footwork, hitting, it’s all the same. We do the same drills.

“I’ve always had respect for Tonya and her staff but it’s gone through the roof since I’ve been a coach,” she continued. “You find out what bothers you and you see what bothers the coaches and how the girls you’re coaching do it all the time. When we’re players at Tech, it’s like ‘Tonya’s getting on us again. What’s going on?’ Now, you just have such a greater respect for what they do every day and when they say something it means so much more.”

Tempo One has been successful thus far, winning its first tournament and reaching the semifinals in its recent outing. They lost in the semifinals, a three-set match against Ohanna, which hadn’t lost a game all season until falling to Tempo One, in the second game.

While the team has been successful thus far and the Tech co-captains have worked well together — something Hunter feels will be a positive come next season — they see divergent paths as far their coaching futures.

“I don’t really see myself coaching in the future,” said Mead. “It was something that we were asked about and we kind of considered it. It’s close and it’s twice a week and we have about eight tournaments, so it’s not something that’s going to be really hard on our schedules. So when asked, I was kind of like, ‘I don’t know.’ Then Bailey and I were kind of like, ‘We can coach a team. Let’s try it out.’ It’s more of an experience thing.”

Hunter believes she’ll have a harder time walking away from coaching.

“I picked club coaching to see if I was interested in it and I have really found a passion for coaching,” she said. “People come out and watch us play and have no idea who we are but they love us so much, so that’s important to me and coaching is such a way to shape the minds of young people and be a positive role model. Mo and I have found us doing that for these girls that we’re coaching.

“You just want to coach them as players and athletically, but at the same time, they’re 16 and they’re vulnerable,” she continued. “You want to see them stay on the right path and not make a poor decision. I like the fact that I can be a positive role model not just athletically but as as a person. So I definitely do see coaching in the future.”


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