Story and photos by Ellen Cedergreen
Reporting for West Seattle Blog
West Seattle High School head girls-basketball coach Sonya Elliott says the team needed a lot of work when she took over this year: The locker rooms were a mess, morale was way down, team enrollment was at a minimum, and the team had won only 3 games last year. In addition, there was a budget of just $4 to work with. This year, the players had to purchase their uniform shirts themselves.
Coach Elliott is working on a new approach: the girls have study hall three times a week (because discipline in the classroom is just as important as on the court), and the team is working hard on the core fundamentals of the game with a very disciplined approach. Coach says: “When they do a drill and go down and touch the line, they have to actually touch that line.”
Though this is her first year at WSHS, Coach Elliott is no rookie. She’s been in West Seattle for 16 years and has spent a good portion of that time coaching and playing at community centers and in recreational leagues. As a result, she understands the game from every perspective.
When she heard that Seattle Storm coach Brian Agler – the WNBA’s “Head Coach of the Year” – would be willing to give her team a pep talk, she jumped at the chance. And so did the team. During this afternoon’s visit, Coach Agler had the girls sit according to class, with the seniors to the front of the line.
Coach Agler enlisted the seniors to lead the other girls. and to help implement the steps in a three=point plan he laid out for success: Work ethic, attitude, and togetherness. One of the main tenets of the plan is “no drama,” because according to Coach Agler, “drama will kill a girls-basketball team.”
Elaborating on how to accomplish the plan, Coach Agler repeatedly referred to Storm veterans Lauren Jackson and Sue Bird and to their high levels of dedication and discipline. He said that their talent only got them so far and credited their high level of dedication and focused training to improving their games. Focus was a central theme in Coach Agler’s talk. “These are, believe it or not, some of the best years of your life. Don’t waste a day,” he told the team. “Whatever your position, you ought to be as good as you can and accomplish as much as you can.” He sad that winning was great but that doing their absolute best was the bottom line.
(Agler’s in the back row, 3rd from right, with Elliott next to him)
After the talk, Coach Adler handed out FIT T-shirts for the girls and told them he’d be tracking them. He also informed the team, to heavy cheering, that they would be getting tickets to a Storm game in the coming season. By the time he left, the excitement in the air was palpable.
The team has already made some major improvements this year, with a 2-1 record so far this season. Their next game is Saturday night at WSHS at 5:15 against Seattle Lutheran. Their game schedule is here:
Looking for another way to support the WSHS girls? Coach Elliott is donating 50% of all proceeds of sales from her inspirational product line “peacelovebasketball” to the team.