Blue Hill—The George Stevens Academy volleyball team operates in a unique way from a coaching standpoint. Instead of having a head coach with an assistant, coaches Bonnie Marckoon and Aleta Johnson are sharing the coaching duties evenly as co-coaches after Marckoon took over the program last year in its first season competing at the varsity level. With a background in team management and two years of coaching the Ellsworth cheerleading team, Marckoon said coaching the volleyball team felt like something she could do.
“I basically told [GSA athletic director] Larry [Gray] ‘well, we’ll see how it goes,’” she said with a laugh.
While Marckoon does not have any competitive volleyball play on her resume, she has been around the sport since 2008, when her daughter started playing.
“I have a lot of personal background with volleyball,” she said. “I was a team mom for my kids and was always around whatever sport they were into.”
That positive energy now resonates in her coaching style. Marckoon said that she uses positive reinforcement with her team during both practices and games, working on minor adjustments and making sure they don’t pick up any bad habits on the court.
“It’s just been fun,” she said of her two seasons with the team. “There is a huge amount of improvement, and as a coach it’s really good to not only see them develop, but to see them really enjoying the game.”
While Marckoon brings the team management aspect to the coaching sidelines, Johnson brings the player and technical experience.
She has played volleyball since fifth grade, she said, and helped her New Hampshire high school team to state championships three out of her four years on the team. A four-year member of the Husson University Eagles volleyball team, Johnson was a key component in the team’s success over her college career. After graduating from Husson in 2013, Johnson returned to her home state of New Hampshire and gained some coaching experience as the assistant coach at alma mater Jute High School. Most recently, she was the assistant coach at Bucksport High School during the 2016 season.
Johnson said she and Marckoon operate as coaches in a similar way, approaching games and practices relaxed and ready to work based on the needs of the players.
“Bonnie and I work really well together. Every night after a practice or a game we sit down to talk about what went well and what needs changes,” she said. “We have a lot of the same coaching style and ideas, and often agree on when we need to pull back with the girls or push harder.”
Johnson added that one of the most important things for both of the coaches this season has been to foster confidence in their players on the court.
“Now that my girls have some experience under their belts, Bonnie and I are trying to really push them to be better and more confident. We’re trying to teach them to be more aggressive and less ‘nice’ on the court,” she said.