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A contagious work ethic

New Santa Fe High School volleyball coach Josie Adams isn’t afraid to think outside the box when it comes to trying to take the Demonettes to new heights.

For instance, team-building exercises are not just occasional dinners.

They include regular occurrences of sometimes irregular exercises that serve to draw the entire program from varsity through the “C” team together.

For instance, earlier in the summer, someone from the program knew a Santa Fe Opera musician who came in to practice to teach the staff the “Cup” song.

“That was super fun,” Adams said. “It’s a rhythmic thing to do in time. We all sat in a big circle and it’s about timing, making music by tapping a cup on the court. It was a really neat thing.”

Then, of course, there’s the more traditional tie-dye parties, pot luck dinners and workouts, but the Demonettes take it still a step further.

Santa Fe High’s Alyssa Sandoval practices with teammates at Toby Roybal Memorial Gymnasium on Wednesday. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

“We spent a lot of time in the gym, do a lot of conditioning, weight-lifting, cardio. Working that hard together, getting them in shape, is a great way to start team-building,” Adams said. “We also started off with journals, before practice and after practice. They write down their thoughts, setting their intentions and what they wanted to work on personally, and their goals as a team.”

It’s all a way to bring the program into a cohesive unit from the top seniors to the incoming freshmen, she said.

“We’re trying to create a family in the real sense of the word so they take care of each other off the court and on the court,” Adams said. “We have a team full of hard-working athletes who are really putting in the effort on defense, offense and teamwork.”

Working on the mental aspect of the game has also been a big part of the effort.

“We’re working a lot on our mental skills,” Adams said. “We do meditation and we talk about positive thoughts, positive words and changing that negativity as athletes. We’re pretty serious about teaching them how to stay positive and recover quickly. We do it with them on a regular basis. Before games, we regroup and talk about our goals, and do a breathing exercise.”

It helps that the younger players take their cues from the older ones.

“We have great leadership from our two captains (Salome Romp and Alyssa Sandoval),” Adams said. “And our four seniors are incredible leaders, also.”

Ciara Morgan is part of a core of seniors leading the 2018 SF High volleyball team. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

Those seniors – Sandoval, Tanisha Ortiz, Taliyah Balladares and Ciara Morgan – along with junior power hitter Romp, who finished with 368 kills a year ago, form the nucleus of the squad for which Adams has high hopes and expectations.

“Their work ethic just trickles down through the whole program,” Adams said. “You can feel it on our C team, too. We’re trying to build a culture of good athletes with a big work ethic.”

It’s a group that will have to face defending state champion Sandia twice in District 5-5A, but the rest of the district teams likely won’t present much of a challenge for the Demonettes.

“We’ve been really be focused and everyone is there for the team,” she said. “Our goal is to make it to state. We have that goal. And do well at state.”

Adams, who was head coach for several years at Santa Fe Waldorf, then two seasons at St. Michael’s before moving to the state’s largest class, said the transition to Santa Fe head coach went smoothly because the players quickly bought into what the coaches were saying.

“I have an incredible group of coaches around me,” she said. “So we work together. I think that when you have that, it resonates through the whole program. It’s pretty contagious. We give 110 percent as coaches and that’s our expectations for our athletes.”

The players are accepting of the changes with Adams after eight years under Sam Estrada.

“They love it,” Adams said. “They’re really open and they want to win. They want to get better mentally and physically. They know they want to work on the whole athlete. The game is easy, but you have to check yourself a little bit. We talked a lot about being open to making changes and that’s how you get better.”