COVENTRY TWP. Coventry girls basketball has been a program seeking stability for the past several seasons.
Entering the year, the Comets found themselves adjusting to their third different head coach in the span of six seasons, a fact that had them starting from ground zero in many senses. In an ironic twist, the same could be said of first-year head coach Trae Wright, who isn't new to the game, but is in learning mode himself.
"This is my first time ever coaching girls, so that's an adjustment in itself," Wright said. "But so far, I think girls listen more than boys tend to and when you tell them to do something, they give it their all to do it exactly how you tell them to do it."
The results, as could be expected from a team under a new head coach and coming off a challenging season, have been mixed. With a 5-10 record and 2-6 Portage Trail Conference mark, there have been ups and downs for the Comets, with some big wins mixed alongside difficult losses.
Part of the growth process has been on the court during games, but much of it has come away from game nights.
"Coaching these girls, I've seen that we're behind on some of the basic fundamentals ... I took things for granted in terms of basic terminology and things I was taught growing up," Wright noted.
That challenge caused him to break things down to a basic level and simplify his message, working to get his players caught up to speed on the aspects of the game where he saw a need for growth.
Wright says he told his players from his first day that he was a defensive-minded coach and when it comes to areas of progress over the course of the first 15 games, that end of the court tops the list.
"We became a different team after our Dec. 18 game against Streetsboro," Wright said. "Offensively we've been looking to push the basketball up the court. We were scoring more maybe four points a game transition up to that point, but we've been scoring maybe 12 points a game in transition since then. But we've also been better at limiting teams to one shot, two at most."
The team has been led by senior Maddie Ross, who has battled injuries, but has been productive when her health has allowed her to get on the court. She scored 30 in a recent game against Alliance and 24 in an earlier matchup with Firestone, but has fought both a concussion and eye injury along the way. The senior tops the Comets in scoring at 8.6 points per gameand Wright credited her work to battle those injuries and be active.
He also pointed to senior Stacey Arnold, who missed last season with a back injury, but came back this season even though it was apparent early on that her back was still bothering her. She's gotten help in the post from junior Cassidy Karakis, who recently posted three straight games with double-digit rebounds.
There have also been glimmers of hope from the younger players on the roster, including freshman Lexi Dimeff, who drained five 3-pointers in a game last month against Springfield. She and the middle school players coming up through the program behind her figure to be the ones to fuel the push to get Coventry girls basketball to a higher level and to that end, Wright has started a youth program for the fifth and sixth graders in the district.
He tries to work with the coaches in that program to make their practices, terminology and system similar to what the varsity runs so that the younger girls will come up through the program learning the system they may some day play in high school.
Of course, he knows that the players will have questions based simply on the fact that they have seen coaches come and go more often than they'd like.
"I've told them since hired here that I don't plan on going anywhere unless God has a different plan for me," Wright said. "I live about 10 minutes away from the school and I'm thankful to be part of the Coventry community."
Those words – as well as the philosophies and concepts Wright is trying to instill in the program – will take some time to play out, so for now, the focus is on the few games remaining this season and trying to squeeze as much learning, growth and progress out of them as possible. It won't be a quick or easy fight to get where the Comets want to be, but if they can lay a stable foundation now, they'll be better equipped to take those next steps.