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Kitchen Brings New Plan For Program – Boys Varsity Volleyball Coach Overcomes First Year Challenges

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Coach Lonnie Kitchens watches his middle blocker defend the net against Dinwiddie in a district match. Coach Kitchens has made adjustments to keep his team ready throughout his first year as head coach.

Excitement, sweat, and the echoes of the volleyball against players’ hands fill the gymnasium. Spectator’s eyes follow the ball closely, but the most anxious eyes are those of the coach, Lonnie Kitchen.

This is Kitchen’s second year as part of the Prince George faculty. He teaches construction technology and production systems. However, this year is his first as the boys’ varsity volleyball coach. He was the assistant coach last year.

“I run my company full time and I teach full time,” Kitchen said.

When starting the season, Kitchen said the team had some work to do, but he is optimistic about how the season will turn out.

“We have a lot of talent,” Kitchen said. “We can be very good. I just have to get the kids to buy in to my coaching style.”

The turnout for tryouts had Kitchen at a disadvantage. Other high school sports such as football and basketball have very loyal followings by fans and players alike.

“The biggest struggle we faced was not enough people tried out,” Kitchen said. “Volleyball is not a popular boy’s sport.”

The team faced some hardships during the season as well. Kitchen has been working with the team to overcome these.

“We haven’t been running the plays as well as we do in practice,” senior outside and middle hitter Bryant Marks said.

Even with struggles, the team is improving. Marks explained that during a practice, Kitchen would stop the scrimmage and teach the players how to execute the moves properly.

Just like how teachers each teach differently, coaches have different coaching styles. Kitchen’s coaching style is influenced by his experience playing outdoor and club volleyball.

“[My coaching style is] from a lot of experience,” Kitchen said. “[I have] never had any professional training or anything.”

Junior Christopher Riley Rakes noticed the difference in coaching styles and appreciates Kitchen’s approach to it.

“He’s more lenient but holds us to a high standard, because he knows we can perform well,” Rakes said “He’s reasonable and understands us well.”

Kitchen’s approach to coaching is also admired by Marks who is grateful for the way Kitchen will teach the team what is wrong and will help to fix those problems.

“I like that he’s enthusiastic and knows what to do,” Marks said. “He has a game plan.”

His change with the team was adding more movement. Kitchen runs plays with more footwork than previous years.

“We’re much more fluid than last year,” Rakes said.

Practices are from 3:00 PM to 6:00 PM every weekday. They consist of drills and team scrimmages.

One of the team’s advantages this season is that there are many players who have played together for several years in the past. Kitchen says he expects the same for next year.

Kitchen also admires the team’s bonding, especially through their pre-game chant. They recite the Nebraska Cornhuskers’ football chant that is shouted line by line by one player and repeated by the rest of the team.

The encouraging chant ends with the team saying that they will improve ‘day by day.’

“I think things are looking up for us,” Rakes said.

Kitchen shares Rakes’s optimism for the season and has confidence in the team.

“I think we’re going to impress some schools,” Kitchen said. “We’re definitely on the rise.”


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