MOUNT VERNON — Over the last
three decades, Kathy Stevens established Centerburg as a volleyball powerhouse.
Under Stevens and later, coach Lisa Boron, the Trojans made countless trips to
the State Tournament, winning it all in 2003.
So when Stevens, who had two stints as head coach as well as being the assistant under Boron, retired following the 2008-09 school year, Centerburg was looking for someone to help carry on the tradition.
Who better than recent Ohio State University graduate Ami Stevens? Stevens, the niece of Kathy Stevens, led Centerburg to four straight state tournaments and anchored the 2003 championship team. From there, she went on to play for the Buckeyes for four years, and graduated in June with her education degree. She was hired at the May Board of Education meeting as both a physical education teacher and head volleyball coach.
Keeping it all in the family wasn’t part of the plan for Centerburg, but it was a welcomed opportunity for Ami.
“Centerburg volleyball has been great,” said Ami. “The girls know the basic skills really well, and have a good, solid foundation already. Some schools that wouldn’t be the case and you have to build that up. Kathy did a great job of building that up over the years, so I just want to add to it.
“I’m really excited,” added Ami. “I know most of the other teachers at Centerburg, and even some of the players I am going to be coaching watched me play. It is nice to be able to give back, and have the players respect you. I think, because they’ve seen me play, they understand that I know what I’m talking about. I’m excited to share what I learned at Ohio State and with the USA Nationals program. It is going to be a lot of fun.”
Taking over you alma mater in your first year out of college would be intimidating for most coaches. Ami, however, is used to dealing with these types of situations, and feels ready to tackle any challenges that lie ahead.
“I don’t feel any pressure,” Ami said. “I’m going to coach the way I am going to coach, and go from there. ... We want to win and that’s our goal. We are going to compete and have fun. ... It is always a goal of Centerburg volleyball to be (Mid-Buckeye Conference) champs, so it is going to be no different with me coming in.
“We are going to take it one game at a time and try to improve each time out. My philosophy is you go out there, compete and play your hardest, taking one game at a time. If you look at the big picture too much, I think it gets you in trouble. We’re going to work on our skills and try to become better volleyball players.”
As far as her coaching style goes, Ami has been able to mold her ideas and philosophies while playing for some of the best coaches in the game. She’s hoping to be able to pass that on to her future players.
“I had a great base at Centerburg, but I’ve picked up a lot of stuff,” said Ami. “One of the things I learned was going to the floor. That is going to take a while to learn, but showing the girls how to get a ball off the floor is important. There are so many times that the ball is still playable, but you have to go to the floor to get it. That is something that I am going to push and push, and the girls better be ready to wear knee pads. It takes time; it is a process. When I went to Ohio State, I really didn’t have a clue on how to roll, which is what you do when you go to the floor. By my junior year, I think I got it down. It is a process; it takes time to learn how to make yourself fall to the floor.
“There are also different tactics when it comes to where you are going to be serving and serving tough. A lot of it depends on what type of players you have, and what they are capable handling, knowledge-wise.”
Since Ami has been around the program, the Trojans won’t have as much of a learning curve as some teams might. At least that the hope. By the way things have already been going, however, it seems like that might just be the case.
“We had a mini-camp in June and I tried to give them a taste of what my coaching style is like,” said Ami. “A lot of it is based on what I experienced at Ohio State. Jim Stone was a pretty upbeat tempo type of coach and I absolutely loved to play for him for the most part. I’m going to give it to (my players), but I am also not going to be yelling in their faces. I want them to enjoy their experience; that’s what this is all about.”