Coaching Spotlight: Damian Elder

Coach Damian Elder started his first fall season as head coach of the Women’s Volleyball team and led the Bears to an excellent home court debut. Having coached in the Pacific-12, the Southeastern Conference and the Southern Conference, Coach Elder brings experience, good energy and a positive change to the team. Having trained with most of the players last spring, Elder looks to improve upon the indoor team’s performance last year and make them a championship contender in the near future.
He sat down with The Cluster and talked about his experience and what it seems to be a very promising season.

Cluster: You had an excellent home court debut. How would you describe the team’s performance?
Elder: I thought the fans were great and the team fed of the energy in the gym, I thought the team had prepared very well to play ETSU specifically and our defense continued to be our strength as a group.
C: What was the key to your success in the last game?
E: Our serving was great in the match against ETSU and I hope that gets better and better because that makes the rest of the things we do to fall into place a little bit more. And as long as our offense keeps going in the right direction, then I think we are going to be hard to beat.
C: So, in general, how is the team doing both in practice and at the court?
E: The team is doing great! Minus a couple of injuries that we have had over the past couple of weeks, the rest of the team has pushed through and practiced as hard every single day and plays every match hard.
C: How would you describe your coaching style?
E: Intense but positive, trying to make sure that everybody is accepting responsibility for their work ethic in the gym and we do the same thing as a coaching staff, we are trying to make sure they understand we are working as hard as we can as well. And we are holding ourselves accountable everyday for getting better.
C: What do you look to improve during this season?
E: I hope to improve our offense. I think that is the key to us being able to make it to the A-Sun Tournament. I want to make sure that the underclassmen have a great experience because the seniors are role modeling the right things for them. And I just want to make sure that the team has a positive experience because I think they have gotten used to having a pretty medium or negative experience. So I want to make sure that we are all striving towards a positive experience.
C: What is one of your best memories as a coach so far?
E: Winning the National Championship at Stanford, maybe not just the moment of winning but the season overall. How it played out all the way up to the point of winning the entire thing, it was probably my finest coaching seasons.
C: And the worst?
E: The worst was probably my last year at South Carolina. Everything went the wrong way. I was bad at coaching and nothing was clicking with the team. It was a pretty bad experience I think for everyone involved.
C: It looks like it is going to be a pretty exciting season, is there anything you would like to say to our Bears fans?
E: Absolutely! I think playing in the new small arena is going to be an amazing fan experience and we want to make sure that we keep winning and we keep doing the things to get the fans out there. Mainly because the girls deserve having their Mercer Bears fans out there to support them every time.
C: And is there anything you would like to say to your girls?
E: The fact that we got to come here together as a coaching staff and be able to trying to change something for the better and that the girls have had to accept that and want to do it has been a wonderful experience for us. We are getting the chance for all of us, the team included, to make something great. I’m so proud of the team for accepting that it is the time to change. And they are the ones doing the hard work, it is not us. We are all proud of them!“
The team’s first home victory sent the Bears to 5-6 (1-0 A-Sun) on the year while ETSU slipped to 9-6 (0-1 A-Sun). The winning also marked the first time Mercer has started 1-0 in conference play since 2008. Coach Elder is clearly leading the volleyball squad in a positive direction.
Come out and support the team at one of the six home games left in the 2012 season.