Aug. 9, 2014
By Jon Cooper
The Good Word
Michelle Collier doesn’t believe in wasting time.
Georgia Tech’s first-year volleyball head coach realizes that time is a precious commodity, one you can’t get back and one that when you have it should be put to good use when you have it.
That’s what she did on Friday morning — then Friday afternoon — as her team completed its first practices in advance of the 2014 season.
“We really try to be about hard work and no regrets,” said Collier. “Let’s leave the court and make sure that we gave our best and are proud of what we’ve done. That’s how we want to approach every practice. Let’s not wish we had 10 more minutes to work on something when we could have got it done in the time that we needed to be there.”
If the first practice is any indication, the team accomplished that goal and then some.
“It was a good environment. I think everybody is buying in and really believing what we’re bringing in as a staff and our vision and we set the tone today with our first practice,” said Collier, the eighth head coach in Georgia Tech program history and 2013 Atlantic Sun Conference Coach of the Year. “There were no hiccups or anything like that. They bought into what we talked about, going hard, getting after it, making sure that we’re taking advantage of our time in the gym.”
The faster-is-better approach played well with the players.
“It was great,” said junior libero/defensive specialist Wimberly Wilson. “This practice was a little more fast-paced than we’re kind of used to. Past preseasons we’d take a lot of time to break down skills so the drills would take a little bit more time. It’s a little bit slower-paced. But just judging from this first practice, I think it’s going to be a lot more fast-paced.”
“It’s a lot faster,” agreed sophomore libero/DS London Ackermann. “It’s positive. It’s a great environment. Everyone wants to be there. It’s that much more energy than last year.”
Even the freshmen are on board, as they found themselves comfortable and not in over their heads.
“It was very fast-paced and a lot of competitive drills, which I really liked,” said freshman outside hitter Ashley Askin, one of four on this year’s roster. “It was fun. I expected it to be intense and very quick and fast-paced. It was what I expected.”
Collier expects everyone to be in the running for floor time and that fuels the level of competition in practice.
“It’s your year, your opportunity to create your own history,” she said. “That’s how we’re going to go about that.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re a freshman or a senior. You have to buy into what Georgia Tech is going to be about,” she continued. “Let’s get back to that pride and that history that they had with the volleyball program. Everybody’s going to have to play a big part in that. Sophomore or senior, they have the same responsibilities.”
They also can expect to return to the floor at O’Keefe Gym. The first day of practice was held at the neighboring Zelnak Center, on the practice court of the men’s and women’s basketball teams, as the floor at O’Keefe was drying after being repainted.
The team didn’t miss a beat. They actually enjoyed the change of scenery.
“It’s a nice environment over there. It was perfect,” said Collier. “Everybody worked hard to make us feel safe and in a training environment that would be ideal and they did that. We’ll get it done over there and we’ll come back to O’Keefe.
“It’s an interesting set-up,” said Wilson. “I kind of like it because there’s a lot of space behind the lines, so we can jump-serve, which is sometimes a little bit harder upstairs.”
The team will go hard until classes start on Aug. 18, frequently doing two-a-days. (The Gold/White Scrimmage will be held at O’Keefe on Aug. 23, with the season opener at the Gamecock Invitational in Columbia, S.C., on Aug. 29. The home opener is set for Sept. 19, a Gold Out match against Georgia as part of the Georgia Tech Invitational).
The players aren’t intimidated by the two-a-day sessions.
“I think everyone here is on the team because they like to work hard and they like to really grind it out in the gym,” said Wilson. “That means that many more touches and that many more reps to get better.”
“I like it,” added Ackermann. “We’ve been off for so long, so when we’re back in the gym and we’re in there that much, it’s a lot faster to get used to things. It’s great.”
There’s nothing new in two-a-days for Askin, who remembers them from high school and club ball in Kentucky, where she played on the same team as Ackermann.
“I’m used to it,” she said. “And I come from a very competitive club and we did a lot of this type of stuff.”
While Collier is prepared to work the players hard, she assured that they will be carefully monitored and practices will be tailored to their condition. She also hinted that she and the staff have a system to break up the monotony and keep things fun.
“We’re having a couple of team functions. I can’t tell them what they are because it’s a surprise for the girls,” she said. “But we’ll go hard for three days then we’ll have a day off or a day where we’re kind of taking it easy.
“We kind of stay in contact with our trainers, with our strength coach, to find out if we need to limit their jumps or whatever it is that we need to do in practice to make sure that we’re getting the best out of them,” she added. “It doesn’t really do any good to just kill them and not get anything out of it. I think that we have started in a great way. So I’m super excited.”
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