Starting off a new job is never expected to be easy. However starting off a coaching job in the middle of a worldwide pandemic is even more of a challenge.
Enter Tara Braceros, who was announced as the Elk Grove volleyball team’s newest head coach.
An EGHS alumni, Braceros is very familiar with the program. After playing volleyball since elementary school, she joined and played on Elk Grove’s volleyball team through all four years of high school.
During this time, she was also a manager of the boys volleyball team.
“Playing at Elk Grove and then being a manager for the boys volleyball program was what got me interested in coaching,” Braceros said. “I didn’t play in college other than recreationally, but I knew that I wanted volleyball in my life still, and coaching was the way I could do that.”
Thanks to Stephanie Kezios, previous head coach of the girls volleyball team, Braceros got into a coaching career right after graduating from college. She was hired as the sophomore coach at EGHS and fulfilled that role for four years. As a science teacher at Buffalo Grove High School, she has coached volleyball there for the past two seasons.
Braceros said she is very excited to return to Elk Grove once again.
“I think that I can make a difference because I bring a fresh perspective and passion for the game,” Braceros said. “I love volleyball and I love to compete, and I want to instill a drive and respect for the game in all young women in the program.”
This year’s season is especially unique because of the impact Covid-19 has made on fall sports. The official girls volleyball season, which normally starts in the fall, has been pushed back to February, but the team has met during contact days to continue practicing.
Braceros and some of the athletes find this as a potential opportunity for further success since the team members now have a whole club volleyball season to play before the school season starts.
“I definitely think we will be more prepared because most of us will be able to play a whole club season before starting the high school season,” Paige Langston, a senior volleyball team athlete, said.
Despite this advantage, there are still many challenges the team and the coach have to face. Several strict protocols and limitations have been set in place to ensure everyone’s health and safety. In order to continue playing the game, rules about mask-wearing and social distancing must be followed.
“During the summer, there were a lot of limitations on the types of drills of drills we could run, so that pushed me to come up with practice plans that allowed for skill development, competition, and allowing the girls to social distance and stay safe,” Braceros said.
The team still has goals set in mind to prepare for a great season in February. Braceros hopes to train and develop more well-rounded athletes along with being more competitive in the Mid-Suburban League East, as it is a very competitive conference. Langston said she hopes to be able to play a full senior season and win more games than previous years.
“The most challenging part of playing a sport during the pandemic is the unknown,” Braceros said. “We don’t know what everything is going to look like come February, but we have to continue to train and prepare as if we are going to play our full season.”
If all goes as planned, the girls volleyball team will play their full season in February after several months of unique training. As of now, they are continuing to practice through contact days and club volleyball seasons so that they are fully prepared for their late winter slate of games.
“The girls have done a great job at being flexible, and I think that we are all just happy to be in the gym and playing volleyball,” Braceros said.