NARRAGANSETT—First impressions are everything, especially for a new coach.
When Abby Hummel took the job coaching the Narragansett girls volleyball team last spring she knew she’d need to implement her expectations from day one when the fall season rolled around.
“My style is coming back from my high school style. I had really, really great coaches there that brought the basics back, the long hours and the hard work back and being accountable for everything you do,” says Hummel, a graduate of Toll Gate High School.
“That’s what I’m bringing to them and I’m very up front about it and they all know they’re accountable for all of their actions on all of the rules as a team, not just as an individual.
“…I think that’s going to be a really big thing with them so they work together and look out for each other, not just one player.”
As a three-sport athlete at Toll Gate and the Community College of Rhode Island – and later a soccer player a Rhode Island College – Hummel knows how important it is to work as a cohesive unit.
So far, her seniors do too.
“I’ve gotten a lot of help from the seniors,” Hummel says. “It was really tough because I accepted the job once school was over almost. I had like a day [to get to know them] so the seniors actually got a hold of me this summer and they set up their captain’s practices for me, which was really helpful.
“…They’ve been nothing but helpful. Coming in not knowing any of them I have nothing bad to say about any one of them. They all stepped up in different ways to help me out. Anything I ever ask of them they always get done so it’s actually been really great.”
Coaching will only get you so far – after all they’re not the ones out on the court bumping, setting and spiking – but what Hummel has done is allowed seniors Gabby Leclerc, Maddie Cote, Leia Mistowski and Kelsey Hagan to lead under her direction.
“As seniors she expects us to have responsibility,” Leclerc says, “but she also needs us to know she’s in charge.”
“It’s been a great experience so far,” Cote adds. “The responsibility she’s given us has let all four of us become a lot closer and we’ve definitely grown and we can lead in a better way than we ever could have before.”
While everything has gone well so far, Cote admits there was a little uncertainty coming into a new situation this fall.
“It was different because before we’d always known what we were walking into every year with tryouts,” she said, “but this year we had no clue.”
As Wednesday’s practice indicated, Hummel is doing exactly what she said she would; bring back the hard work and basics.
Wednesday the team went 45 minutes before it even touched a volleyball, as seniors led laps around the Pier Middle School, stretching and a core strengthening workout, all the while making sure the whole squad was in unison.
“If we see one person doing something wrong everybody has to do an additional [repetition],” Mistowski says. “We’re really trying to push everybody into doing the best and as seniors we’re trying to lead the team.”
From there the team broke off into pairs and worked on basic volleyball skills, bumping, setting or spiking the ball back and forth to their partners.
What the first half of Wednesday’s practice lacked in excitement it more than made up for in purpose.
When the score is tied at 14-all in a fifth set and fatigue has fully set in, it’s the type of work that allows one team to seize victory while the other watches it fade away.
Most importantly of all though, the players are responding positively to the change.
“I feel like we’re going to be way closer as a team than we were last year,” Hagan says. “…We’re working together as a team, we’re communicating and we’re helping each other.”