The official start to Brownwood High School athletics for the 2018-19 school year took place at 6 a.m. Wednesday as the Lady Lions volleyball program conducting the first workouts under new head coach Jessica Withrow.
Withrow — who has eight years of teaching and coaching experience, including stints at Sweetwater, Lubbock Coronado, and Marble Falls — inherits a program coming off back-to-back bi-district championship campaigns, and a 15-21 overall record last season.
Following two hours of running and conditioning, the Lady Lions focused on volleyball skills from 9 to 11 a.m. and again from 1 to 3 p.m. at Warren Gym.
“I was curious as to what the Lady Lions were going to be like coming in, if they were going to have energy, if they were going to be a little discouraged by the amount of running we have to do,” Withrow said. “But they hit it full force, they were excited, and I think they're ready for a new program and new opportunities.
“That's what I tried to tell the girls this morning, the excitement just to compete needs to come back to Brownwood. They need to give it everything they have, give their best and be excited about being pushed and challenged. That's what going to bring them success and I thought they did an awesome job today. I was super excited.”
The additional running and conditioning session that took place prior to Wednesday's initial practice is the backbone of Withrow's coaching philosophy.
“For me, I really believe in holding ourselves accountable and making sure that we're in shape,” Withrow said. “When we hit the court in a game we're never going to be winded or tired, we're always going to out-hustle the other team. For me, in practice there's always going to be some kind of conditioning and there's always going to be that pressure scenario that we're going to get in a game. In a game, the pressure when you miss the ball is that you're going to lose. In practice, we don't have to that type of pressure, so the pressure we've created is you have to run.”
Despite an opening day chock-full of work, Withrow and the Lady Lions displayed an infectious enthusiasm throughout practice. While the new head coach with pleased with the day for the most part, there was one slight disappointment Wednesday.
“I originally had 47 girls sign up but right now I'm at 29,” Withrow said. “I want to encourage more girls to come out because we don't ever want to get in a bind where we can't play a game. I think some girls didn't get the memo and didn't know when we were starting or maybe they're a little hesitant with somebody new. But we want them to come out and we'll be excited if they do.”
Along with Wednesday's practice, the Lady Lions will work out again Thursday, then travel to Glen Rose for a Friday scrimmage and host Bangs in a Saturday scrimmage. Another practice on Monday precedes Brownwood's first game of the season at Sweetwater on Tuesday.
Regarding the quick turnaround from the first practice to the first game, Withrow said, “In this short amount of time we're trying to figure out what teams the kids are going to be on for sure. We're going to try and teach them as much as we can about the basics of playing — serve receive, being competitive at an early stage by running a fast offense, learning our defensive positions, and the fundamentals you need at the beginning to learn my drills and my plays.”
In Saturday's home scrimmage against Bangs, the Lady Lion JV and freshmen will take the floor at 10 a.m., with the varsity to follow at 11 a.m.