Game Changer

Photo S. Verdisco
Coach Sweeney.

Samantha Verdisco, Staff Writer

The sound of shoes squeaking and balls bouncing echo throughout the gym as the Lady Knights’ basketball team begins warm-ups. Decked out in sports gear and Air Jordans, they start to stretch, work on ball-handling skills, and shoot one-armed free throws. Occasionally, the girls share a laugh while switching positions between the timed intervals. It is just a typical, after-school practice. But there is something amidst the young team that has sparked change from the previous years: a coach’s inspiration, passion and drive to succeed.

In her first year at Robinson, teacher Allison Sweeney has taken on the new head coaching position. Under her guidance, the Knights have already won one more game than they have last season.

“We have a great team this year. I think it is just an emphasis on the little things: effort, enthusiasm, and a sense of community with our team,” she said. “I think it is just those things, and the winning will come with that.”

This year, five freshmen have joined the varsity team.

“We are a really young team and we are still learning how to play together,” said two-year captain, Erin Dorsey (’15). “We have a lot of underclassmen that are really talented and willing to work hard. It has gone really well so far.”

Dorsey attributes the success to Sweeney’s coaching techniques and ability to work with the team.

“I know that this is my fourth coach in four years, but this year, our coach is really emphasizing the little things that we need to work on, like working together, and doing things right,” she said. “The discipline on the team is also a lot better; everybody is more respectful of each other. [Coach Sweeney] is creating a much better atmosphere. It is much more enjoyable to play basketball.”

Co-captain Erica Martin (’16) believes the coaching staff has inspired the team to come together and compete.

“If you have dedicated people on your team, it makes you want to play better,” said Martin. “I love the energy that everybody has brought. It makes us want to be better altogether as a team.”

Back inside the gym, the girls gasp for air before Sweeney makes them repeat the drill. They have to get it. They have to beat it. Warm-ups are over now; the intensity of practice has only started to kick in.
“Coach Sweeney is very consistent. She makes us work hard and pushes us to be our best,” said Martin.

“Sometimes, like now, she even makes us run a lot,” she added with a laugh.

This season, the team aims for a district championship, a title that would allow them to rebuild from last year’s 2-18 record.

“It’s a new year, and we are putting in a lot of time and hard work in practice to make sure that we are focused and believe that we can win districts,” said Sweeney. “I know I do.”