Since the end of November, the Mercer Women’s Volleyball team has been looking for a replacement for former Head Coach Noelle Rooke who resigned on Nov. 29. The search was a long and tedious one, but all prayers were answered on Jan. 17 when the Mercer Athletic Department announced the hiring of Damian Elder.
Director of Athletics Jim Cole was very pleased with the choice of Elder to assume the role of Head Volleyball Coach. “We are extremely pleased to add Coach Elder to the Mercer family,” said Cole. “He brings over a decade of top-level hardwood coaching experience and has proven the ability to build a successful sand volleyball program. I’m confident we have found the right man to lead our program going forward,” added Cole.
This will be Elder’s first head coaching job ever. Most recently, Elder was the assistant at the College of Charleston in Charleston, South Carolina. At Charleston, he helped guide the Cougars to a 25-10 (14-2 SoCon) record and a runner-up finish in the 2011 SoCon Championship.
Before College of Charleston, Elder was also an assistant at the University of South Carolina as well as Stanford University. In his first season at Stanford, with his help, the team captured the 2004 NCAA Division I National Championship.
The Cluster most recently had a question and answer session with Coach Elder and he had a very positive outlook on where he plans to take the team in both indoor and sand volleyball.
Cluster: Why did you choose Mercer?
Elder: I chose Mercer for two reasons: The athletic department is committed to enhancing student athlete’s experience and creating a sand volleyball program from scratch combined with turning around an indoor seemed like a challenge I couldn’t pass up.
Cluster: What do you look to improve upon moving forward with the girls from last year?
Elder: I’m moving toward team chemistry being a fundamental skill and standard for this group of athletes, as opposed to an intangible.
Cluster: How are your first team practices shaping up?
Elder: Practices have been great because the team has been great. I’ve told the girls that the day to day grind of “running” a program is completely overshadowed by how much I have enjoyed being in the gym with them.
Cluster: What is your coaching philosophy and how do you look to instill it upon your players?
Elder: I have a coaching philosophy that is constantly in flux, but can be captured currently by NFL analyst Ron Jaworski, a few weeks ago he said of a school looking for a new football coach, “they need pioneers not historians.” And that sums me up at the moment, I’m trying to be a pioneer for this team and I project that with consistency in my message and vigilance in watching for the good they do.
Cluster: Finally,with sand volleyball being added as an NCAA sport, how do you look to work on improving the skill set of your players so that they can play competitively?
Elder: Building the skill set for sand volleyball isn’t a project from the ground up. Many of the athletes on the team are experienced sand players and the other athletes possess the indoor skills just waiting to be translated onto the sand.
Coach Elder should be able to take the program into the right direction. Team practices have begun and the hard work is already being put in to push for a conference championship in the 2012 indoor season, not to mention the sand volleyball season. Things are looking up for the women’s volleyball squad.