Erica Almas

Almas coaches Brown County to first Sectional Title

“I told the girls to not be satisfied yet,” stated Coach Almas, after winning the Sectionals. “It’s a pretty good feeling, I keep forgetting this is a first for Brown County.”

The Eagles have been building on this moment by winning nine of its last ten matches, after a lot of close losses.

“We scouted the two teams that we were up against on Saturday,” said Coach Almas. “They were conference opponents and beat us in the regular season and we knew their strengths and weaknesses. All week I told the girls that I can help them critique their skills, that I can give them scouting reports so they know what to expect, but I could not help them play with heart.  Saturday, they played with heart. I was concerned with Edgewood and playing them at home, with their crowd. But we had quite a few people there from Brown County.” 

 “All year we have been asking them to believe in themselves,” explains Coach Almas. “I adopted a team of talented girls who lacked confidence in themselves and their teammates.  At sectionals last Saturday, we saw a group of ten girls who didn’t hang their heads after a kill by the other team, who told themselves to ‘get the next one’, and who believed and trusted in their five other teammates out on the floor with them.” 

Transitioning from an assistant to head coach brought on a lot of responsibility.  Almas welcomed the challenge and planned for most of it.  Of course, there were a lot of things that she had to address this year that she might have overlooked as an assistant. There is definitely a learning curve your first year. Call it naïve optimism, but at the beginning of the season they wanted to be 20-5! What Almas has learned this year is that you can’t win volleyball games on hard work and talent alone.  There are so many other factors that play into success like confidence, perseverance, and a drive to win.

 “We hit a stretch of the season where we lost to Edgewood, Eastern, Bloomington South, Hauser and Edinburgh,” recalls Coach Almas. “At the beginning of the season, we were not practicing well and my biggest concern with those losses was, “Would we hang our heads?’ ” 

It actually motivated the girls as the practices got better and they started winning matches. They took Indian Creek in five games and the Eagle players started figuring out it was possible. The key word here is heart, but its also believing and having confidence they are a good team.

Almas believes her middle school basketball coach was the reason that motivated her to want to become a coach.  He was a great motivator and taught her how important an athlete’s heart is, but also how important it is for athletes to see where their coach’s heart is.  Their team won the first conference plaque for girls sports at CMS. 

“After high school, I knew I wanted to be a teacher, said Coach Almas. “When I was approached about coaching seventh grade volleyball, I thought it would be a wonderful opportunity to work with teenagers. I’ve enjoyed it ever since.”

When she settled into Brown County, a guy by the name of Roger Fleetwood became her mentor.  Coach Fleetwood has been a successful boys basketball coach for years and he really prepped her better than anyone for the job.  The regular season was up and down this year and coming in as a new coach, he reminded her to stay positive and to show the girls that you care about them more than anything. He told her that the wins will come and to remain focused on the big picture.

Almas began her coaching career in her first year of college at IPFW when she coached seventh grade volleyball at Churubusco Middle School. She would have the same group of girls and coach them in their eighth grade and freshman year. That class of girls were seniors this season for Churubusco. When Almas received her teaching job down at Brown County, they asked her to coach the freshman team, a position that she held for two years until being named varsity coach this season.

Although she hasn’t found her exact coaching style yet, she would say that she really admired the late John Wooden and had read several of his books. Also she has a lot of respect for Pat Summit, the head coach of the Tennessee Lady Vols, because of how successful her program has been.

Brown County (14-15) lost 25-15, 25-16 and 25-16 to 3A #9 Silver Creek (30-7) in Regional action last Tuesday to end the Eagles’ postseason run.

The future looks bright for Brown County, with all the young players on this year’s squad with the two top hitters and the setter being sophomores.  Add to that four talented juniors returning to the team next season.  “We’ll miss the four seniors that we’re losing,” commented Coach Almas, “but I think the future looks good.”  Almas has a travel/club program in the works for her younger girls where she feels her younger girls need to play more competitive volleyball outside of the regular school season.

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