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Wolfpack’s new coach focuses on team play, winning attitude

The Claremont High School girls volleyball team is returning from a strong showing in the 2011 season. The Wolfpack ended the season winning 70 percent of their matches, finishing with a 7-3 league record and tying for 2nd place in the Sierra League.

This season, Erika Williams stepped into the fold to help Claremont reach its lofty goal of winning league and advancing far into the CIF southern section playoffs.

Coach Williams has experience in a number of different spheres. She coached the Rancho Valley Club 16-select team for a number of years. Before that, she worked at the elementary level, and coached high school ball in Ontario for one year. She decided to take a “leap of faith” this year upon seeing that the Claremont team was in need of a head coach.

As someone who values a sense of urgency and commitment from her players, Coach Williams knows her team must always stay focused during business time. She challenges each of her players to get better during practices, encouraging them to run down every ball, every point.

A believer in team chemistry, Coach Williams also knows that she does not know everything. “I can always get better as a coach. I want my players to know this, and I want them to know that they must always try to improve their game as I do. Everyone’s contribution adds to our success as a team.”

Hard work is an important value for any coach you will meet, and Coach Williams is no exception. “I hate the term ‘hell week,’ but we managed to run two-a-day practices in spite of our late start to the season. This involved running the track and doing core workouts for conditioning.” Conditioning and fundamental drills got the team in shape, and the team chemistry is becoming natural.

Coach Williams keeps the players enjoying the sport by running request drills from the team. The team plays Queen of the Court to spark up some competition among individual players, and to take a break from conditioning exercises. While keeping the game fun for the team, her philosophy also uses a mental approach. If the girls seems to be struggling with negative attitudes, stale performances or communication issues, she stresses the group approach.

“This is not about one or 2 players. We will succeed if we all strive to achieve our common goal,” she said.

 

A coach and player

As a high school student, Coach Williams started playing volleyball her freshman year during gym class. She and her family realized her potential, so she began playing with the church team.

After that, she played one year at Cypress College before transferring to Cal State San Bernardino and red-shirting her first year. During the next 3 seasons, 2001-2003, the CSUSB women’s volleyball team secured a three-peat of conference championships. They finished as semifinalists in 2003 while hosting the regional tournament, and she became a key team member.

Coach Williams now plays in occasional women’s tournaments as well as in a weekly co-ed competitive league. When not playing or coaching, she has a number of hobbies to keep her busy including listening to an eclectic collection of music, scrapbooking and spending time with her family.

“My family is my support system, and we bounce ideas off of one another,” she said. “There is usually more than one way of doing something, and talking with family helps me see this.”

There is also more than one way to win volleyball games and develop young, aspiring women, and Coach Williams is confident that her team will perform with solidarity whatever challenges are thrown their way.

—Chris Oakley

sports@claremont-courier.com

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