By Dennis Glade
The Washington Times-Herald
Some 23-year-olds often have trouble adapting to life after college. At the ripe old age of 23, you are often done with college and thrust into real commitments and expectations. Nothing seems easy at the time. Barr-Reeve volleyball coach Amber DeCoursey went through these growing pains as well, but 14 years later she has everything figured out.
DeCoursey capped her 14th season as the Vikings volleyball coach with a Class A state championship earlier this month. DeCoursey’s best player, senior Jenna Knepp was the recipient of the Mental Attitude Award following the 3-1 victory over Lafayette Central Catholic at Worthen Arena in Muncie. Soon after winning the school’s first state championship in any sport, DeCoursey was named the Class A State Coach of the Year by the Indiana Coaches of Girls Sports Association.
“It’s very exciting,” DeCoursey said. “It’s a testament to how hard the girls have worked this season with all the time they have put in. I don’t think with what they have accomplished, I wouldn’t have been able to be in the running for that award.”
DeCoursey’s journey to a state champion began at Barr-Reeve when she was a standout basketball and volleyball player. She attended Indiana State University while playing basketball and upon graduating she took a job at Barr-Reeve and took over as the new head of the volleyball program.
“When I was 23- years old and took over this program, you just dive right into it,” DeCoursey said. “I remember thinking what am I doing, what have I done? How on earth do you get a program set up to run, but the volleyball program has been successful — this is our 41st consecutive winning season. The volleyball program was already set in place for me with great coaches. The program already had a great history, I was just trying to figure out how to take it to the next level.”
Over 14 years, DeCoursey has taken the program to the next level while winning seven sectional titles, five regional championships, one semistate championship and the 2013 state championship. For years, Barr-Reeve was always the bridesmaid, never the bride when it came to acheiving the ultimate goal of a state championship. That all ended this year with a gritty, hard-nosed group of girls. After the winning the state championship, DeCoursey said she wasn’t sure how to feel about finally getting back to the top of the mountain, but not she has some clarity.
“It’s just a great feeling,” DeCoursey said. “At first when it happened, there was just so much going on and to be able to take it all in and realize what these girls had just accomplished, it just seemed overwhelming. Now that it has been almost three weeks and things have settled down and the girls are onto their next sport (basketball), you can sit back and enjoy it a little bit more. At times it just seems unreal what they have accomplished. They have put so much time in, so much energy, so much effort. For these seniors to come out on top is just amazing, they deserve every bit of it.”
Montgomery is such a close-knit community that has allowed all the sports teams to become a part of everyone’s life so much so that every person in the town feels like a part of the team even though they aren’t on the court. DeCoursey grew up in Montgomery, left for college and came back. She has said there is no other place for her and everyone from the casual volleyball fans, to the players, fellow coaches and even Barr-Reeve administrators are happy to have her on their side.
“I’m a former coach and I’ve been around athletics my whole life and I’d put her up with anyone I’ve ever seen coach,” said Barr-Reeve School Superintendent Travis Madison. “She works incredibly hard — that’s a given — most coaches do, but she does work incredibly hard. The thing that I think is a gift that she has is she’s able to get the most out of every kid that she coaches. She is hard on them, but at the same time there isn’t a girl that doesn’t respect her and the job she does. She’s a coach, but she’s also in a lot of ways their biggest supporter and their best friend. She’s able to find that niche and make relationships with the girls. She’s just a gifted communicator and they know she cares. They would run through a brick wall for her.”
It seems like forever since that inaugural season leading the volleyball program for DeCoursey, but after nearly a decade and a half, she has reached the top of the mountain. Nobody knows what will happen next year, but one thing that is certain — DeCoursey and the Vikings will come back just as hard next fall, because it’s the only way she knows how to do the job.