Since two heads are better than one, the Clarinda Cardinals are hoping two coaches will also be better than one.
Kaitlin Allen and Macy Elwood have been hired to serve as co-coaches of the Clarinda volleyball program for the 2019 season. This will mark the first time in school history a program has had dual head coaches.
“I was interested in the head coach position, but it seemed like a bit task and I knew I would have some big shoes to fill. With all my experience I had the confidence to do it, but I thought it would be more beneficial to have someone by my side,” Allen said. “We coached together for an AAU team in the offseason. We learned very quickly we have similar ideas, which made coaching together enjoyable.”
As a result, Elwood said she and Allen approached Clarinda Activities Director Josh Porter about the idea of serving as co-coaches. Under the arrangement Allen and Elwood will coach the junior varsity and varsity teams together. There will also be a third coach on the staff to oversee the freshmen team.
“We went to Josh and said we would like to try co-coaching because each of us feels more comfortable coaching together,” Elwood said. “We have the support of Mr. Porter and the administration.”
“Josh seems to like new ideas and is not afraid to try new things. I think he was as excited about it as we were,” Allen said.
Allen is entering her sixth year in the Clarinda Community School District. She was initially hired to serve as a first grade teacher and assistant middle school volleyball coach. She coached the seventh grade team for four years before moving to the high school last year to serve as the freshmen coach.
“I have coached the seniors since they were seventh graders. I have seen how far they have come and how much they have grown. I want to see how successful I can help them make their final season. I would like it to be a memorable year for them,” Allen said.
Allen has played volleyball since she was in third grade. A graduate of Shenandoah High School, she was the setter for the Fillies in 2006 when they won the Hawkeye 10 Conference championship. She then went on to play for Buena Vista University as a setter.
Given her background, Allen said she is excited about the opportunity to help lead the Clarinda program. “When I started my coaching career six years ago I did not think I would be where I am today,” she said.
Elwood is a graduate of Stanton High School. She played two seasons as libero, or defensive specialist, and two seasons as the setter for the Viqueens. Stanton qualified for the state volleyball tournament each of her four years.
Elwood came to Clarinda last year. She served as the assistant middle school volleyball coach when Allen moved to the high school to serve as the freshmen coach.
“Our communication is going to be strong because we already have a good relationship. We have known each other for six or seven years and when I started teaching in Clarinda that relationship grew,” Elwood said. “I would not feel comfortable coaching with a complete stranger. I couldn’t do it.”
“If you are going to serve as co-coaches, you need to have a good foundation before you try jumping into it with someone,” Allen said.
Still, both coaches realize there may be times during a match where they have opposing views on what adjustment or strategy to employ. That is where they believe their lengthy friendship will pay dividends.
“The big thing for us to focus on is going to be compromise. We have to have open minds and realize our ideas may not always be the best and the other solution may be better. I think our relationship is strong enough to handle that,” Elwood said.
“Communication is going to be one of our strongest points. We will do our best to work out those situations before the match and have those conversations before they arise. Beyond that, we will have to go with our gut, consider the individual player and decide what is best for that situation,” Allen said.
By coaching both the varsity and junior varsity teams together, Allen and Elwood are also hoping to build a stronger foundation for the program by developing good relationships with all the players.
Along with forging a cohesive unit, the coaches want to focus on teaching the players the skills and techniques that will benefit them on the court. However, they said the teaching will not stop there.
“We also want to teach them life skills that will benefit them while playing volleyball and beyond. We want them to grow both as players and people,” Allen said.
“I’m looking forward to seeing the growth these girls can make throughout the season, whether that is in terms of volleyball skills or their personal life,” Elwood said. “During the first couple days of practice we will sit down with each girl and develop some core values for the teams. Those values could include the idea that everyone is an equal part of the whole, the importance of accountability and developing the mental toughness to not back down from any challenge that may arise.”
One of the biggest challenges the Cardinals could face this season is being one of the smaller teams in the Hawkeye 10 Conference. Therefore, Allen said the Cardinals will need to focus on defensive execution.
“It is going to be important to play a huge defensive game. We also have girls that are very capable of jumping and hitting the ball, but our placement is going to be huge. Speed is also going to be important. We need to be quick,” Allen said.
“I have been in the weight room and I have already seen some growth. I have also seen growth during our open gyms. I think we have a good group of girls who aren’t afraid to push themselves,” Elwood said.
At the same time, Allen and Elwood said they will need to grow as coaches over the course of the season.
“We’re still learning in this process too. It is first time we have co-coached and the first time we have served as a head coach. We have been open with the girls about that and want to make sure we have open communication with them. If something is not working we want to change it for the better,” Elwood said.
“We want to bring some consistency to the program. In my first five years Clarinda has had three different head coaches. Hopefully, Macy and I are going to be here long-term for the girls and the program,” Allen said.