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October 14, 2009 > Consistency is key for Gladiators' season

Consistency is key for Gladiators' season

By David J. Nicolas

Amber Sammons, coach of the Chabot women's volleyball team, lay in bed unable to sleep after the Gladiators' five-set victory against San Jose City College. Despite the win, its seventh in a row, drills for the next practice cluttered her mind.

As of October 12, the Gladiators are 12-4 overall. The last time they lost was September 11.

It is a Thursday which means the ladies start practice at noon. Before noon, most of the team is already suited up in black shirts, shorts and kneepads.

Sammons takes a short walk from her office and into the brightly lit gym with a determined stride and is followed by Katie Perry, one of her assistant coaches, who is a former player like Sammons.

The team gathers in front of a white board and is asked about serving consistency. The girls look intently at Sammons and don't notice the six people watching their practice.

"Mechanics," they respond in unison.

"Passing and serving has been pretty good this entire season," Sammons said about the team's success. "We have been working on learning how to read the game better."

It was a practice after a match, and even though Chabot had a new opponent the next day, Sammons wanted to iron out things the team struggled with the day before - serving and blocking.

Sammons hesitates when asked about which single person who has contributed to the team's winning record the most. The girls work well because they play as a single unit, she says. The hitters have the opportunity to score because of their setters, and points come and go because of solid defense.

"I don't have to nag. They are eager to learn and practice. When you want to go somewhere and improve, it's hard not to do well doing it," Sammons says.

The team brings this effort off the court. The girls are encouraged to keep a regular cardio regimen and lift weights. Some even attend Pilates classes that Sammons leads.

As a physical education teacher with a master's degree in kinesiology, Sammons regards fitness as an important element in keeping the team's consistency. Each player submits a food journal, and there is one constant rule: no soda.

For the fifth-year coach, it is hard to separate athletics and her personal goal with leading a young collegiate team: building character. Sammons emphasizes that her team go to class, be respectable and not swear on the court, always be on time and in proper dress. This year she hasn't needed to punish the team too much.

As a former player at Chabot and the University of Maine, Sammons has brought a lot of personal experience onto the Gladiator court.

"I don't want these girls to just win, I want them to do it right and challenge themselves. My job is to send these girls somewhere after Chabot. If I don't, I'm failing as a community college coach," Sammons says.

With 30 minutes left in practice time, before the basketball team takes over the gym, the ladies simulate a real game. Sammons gets into the left side position and the team plays as if it's the real deal. The gym's echo amplifies every girls' shout of "I go, I go" or calling balls in or out. Each side does a rally cheer after every ace.

Sammons and her coaches grin as they dive and scramble to keep balls in play. Sammons' group wins.

Chabot wins.

The lady Gladiators travel to Monterey to take on Monterey Peninsula College on October 16.

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