By BOB ETTINGER
For the Star Beacon
Edgewood volleyball coach Dave Fowler often looks as if he might be auditioning for the role of Mr. Hyde.
“I think (the face Fowler makes on the sideline) gives him a good look,” senior middle hitter Katie Thomas joked. “Sometimes it scares me, I’m not going to lie. I don’t want to let him down. I know what he’s thinking when he gives me that look.”
Despite the fact he can scare even the most even-keeled of them, the Warriors view Fowler more as Dr. Jekyll.
“He cares a lot about the team,” Thomas said. “He’s like a father figure to me at school. He’s always telling us inspiring stories in practice and sometimes before big matches. Having him as a coach has helped me so much, not just in volleyball. It’s life lessons he’s giving us.”
Not many coaches could pull off being both Jekyll and Hyde. From the outside looking in, many would wonder just how he gets away with it.
“Because we know him,” Thomas said. “I’ve played for him for three years. When he yells at you during a game, he forgets about it by the next practice or he might joke about it with us. I have a lot of respect for him. He cares a lot about the team. We can see that even when we’re walking in the hallways. He’s always picking on us in class.”
Fowler, himself, understands he walks a fine line.
“You have to earn the right to do that,” Fowler said. “The way you earn that is put in the effort and show them you truly care. You have to be out working with them when you’re trying to put the together early on. We go to camp with them. We’re at open gyms. We’re there three hours with them at every summer practice until the season begins.
“When you put in as much time and effort as they do, you earn the right to be tough on them and to praise them because you walked that path with them, as long as you don’t cross that line. The kids know me and that makes a difference.”
Fowler pushed and praised his Warriors to a 19-2 season, earning Star Beacon Ashtabula County Coach of the Year honors.
“This was a pretty unique group,” Fowler said. “It was a very loyal group. The seniors are phenomenal. They didn’t have as much experience as some of my previous teams, but in terms of working together and their integrity, they’re an excellent group.
“I’m a firm believer you’ll do as well as how your seniors are going to be. In terms of the team dynamic, this is an excellent group. Community in team can make an average team great and a great team average. Our team dynamic was exciting.”
Along with chemistry came good defense. And the Warriors played great defense.
“From Year 1, what we’ve tried to do at Edgewood is, whatever the team had, it was primarily built around floor defense. That’s the No. 1 thing we stress. After we define our defend, we see what attackers we have and what our strength will be.
“On my court, if you’re going to play at the varsity level, you better be able to defend. I want people on the court who can dig the ball up and keep it alive. If you happen to have a group of kids who can put the ball down on the other side of the net, it’s going to increase your probability of winning.”
Fowler relies heavily on his assistant, Sherri Britton, to help in that endeavor.
“Sherri makes my job a heck of a lot easier,” Fowler said. “She’s excellent, tactically, she’s an excellent fundamentally as a coach. She can teach the right way to do it and when to do it.”
In the end, Fowler’s players love him. They accept him, flaws and all. And, most importantly, the Warriors play — and play well — for their leader, even when he scares them a bit.
“You have to have players who buy into the program,” Fowler said. “What I love about these girls is they love to play volleyball. Loyalty goes a long way and these girls are a very loyal group.
“If they love volleyball, they’ll push through.”
Ettinger is a freelance writer from Ashtabula. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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