Culture key to mental health for Pride volleyball this season | Sports


Justine Ackie found herself in a difficult position last year with the Mountain Pointe volleyball program.

Most coaches have time to adjust to their players throughout the summer, meeting those who are considering returning from the previous year. But Ackie was hired just before the tryouts.

She made the most of the opportunity given her, but Pride struggled to deal with injuries to key players at various points in the season. This year, however, Ackie is ready to turn the page on a program that has struggled for the past four seasons.

Ackie began to establish a new culture and attitude for the program, which his players immediately appreciated. She also wanted to express the importance of their mental health. She wants her players to be not only physically prepared for a trying season, but also mentally.

“We’re really big this year on culture and attitude,” Ackie said. “Having those positive attitudes and working on mental health from a sporting aspect and making sure that these girls, not only skill-wise, they thrive, but also mental health-wise, they thrive. also flourish.

“I preach culture to them. You’re only as good as your character, that’s one of our main focus right now.

According to Ackie, a change in culture will help Mountain Pointe, which has won eight games the past two seasons. COVID impacted the program as some key players took time off due to the uncertainty of the fall sports season.

Last year, injuries and an overall young squad kept Pride from winning games. But this season, several sophomores and juniors who saw considerable playing time at the college level a year ago are now back.

They all bring a familiarity to the program, as well as a veteran presence. There’s also the leadership factor, a trait Ackie has seen develop in a few players in particular.

Makayla Carroll was one of those team leaders. Last year, she was forced to manage from the bench due to a torn anterior cruciate ligament. Now in good health, her teammates match her energy on a daily basis. She admits to being the loudest of the group. It’s natural for her.

While some of that comes from his sheer love for volleyball and his personality, most of it this season is down to the joy that comes with being able to play again after fully recovering from a wound.

“It means everything,” Carroll said. “That was my main goal, just to start playing again. I’m really excited. Volleyball is my passion.

Carroll sought advice from MiMi Harris, a 2022 Mountain Pointe graduate who went on to play volleyball at Alabama State. The two are best friends and have been for years.

When Carroll sometimes doubted his return, Harris was in his ear as motivation. Carroll took it to heart and is now gearing up to be the libero for a team she believes can have a special season after a productive summer.

“She told me I could do it and I had to believe in myself. It’s all in the mindset,”

Carroll says. “I’m excited this year. I feel like we have a good team. We have grown a lot and we have worked very hard this summer.

Along with Carroll, Alivia Procter took it upon herself to hold her teammates accountable throughout the summer. Ackie said Procter was the one who organized practices and set times for everyone on the program to show up.

As a sophomore last season, she had 29 kills, 20 aces and 74 digs for Pride. But Ackie expects her to play a much bigger role this season as an outside hitter and defensive specialist.

This is an opportunity for Procter. She has seen the program at its lowest and is now eager for the opportunity to rebuild it as a championship contender. That, however, will come in a new conference as Pride moved from 6A to 5A in the latest Arizona Interscholastic Association realignment.

Procter does not consider this decision a demotion. This allows her and her teammates to see new opponents and perhaps be more competitive.

“I honestly think we can do very well,” Procter said. “We meet new teams, see how they play. It’s a new look and it gives us a new mindset to build on.

One of Procter’s main goals this season is to do what she can to help transform the volleyball program and in the right direction.

She knows the athletic history of Mountain Pointe. And she saw the rise of other programs around the school. She believes the volleyball program needs to redeem itself this year, and the leadership of players like her will be key to achieving that.

“Mountain Pointe’s athleticism has always been good, so much praise and all that,” Procter said. “We lost our seniors last year, but we didn’t take it as a defeat because we won a lot. I think we can make the most of it this year and a lot

of management. »

Mountain Pointe plans to bring a new level of energy to every game this season. A glimpse of this was seen during the Pride melee against Mesquite. The bench were asked on one occasion to sit down while they clapped.

It’s a trait of his team that Ackie loves. It also shows how ready they were for the season which kicks off on Tuesday against Cienega.

“We are ready to play. They can’t wait to play,” Ackie said. “Pre-season is always difficult because it’s just training. It’s hard to put into words how excited we are for this team.


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