Typically when a new coach, or coaches, take over a team there is an impulse of new energy and competitive spirit amongst the players.
Even though Mic and Danni Barker are familiar faces to the Sedona Red Rock High School volleyball program, they will make sure that holds true.
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The husband-and-wife duo have coached at the junior varsity Scorpions during the last eight seasons, but now with the reigns of the varsity squad in their hands they plan on changing some things.
“We’re both really competitive and now our competitive juices can come out,” Mic Barker, a Loveland, Colo., native, said. “We’re going to make it a lot more competitive for them too, they’ve got to earn their position.”
As a team, the main goal is speed up the offense and increase the amount of options it has. The team has been plenty successful during this decade. It has reached the Arizona Interscholastic Association State Championship tournament every year, most notably losing the 2014 title match in five games.
But they still want to turn things up a notch despite losing seven seniors from 2016.
“I think we’ll be just as competitive as last year,” Danni Barker said. “We had a couple of younger girls play club and they improved a lot and they should be able to step into some of the shoes.”
All changes aside, the bar remains high. And the Barkers will not settle for anything less than lifting the Conference 2A championship trophy come November.
“We have high expectations, we want to win state.” Mic Barker said. “That is our goal and if that doesn’t happen, or if it does happen, either way we’re going to be extremely unhappy or extremely happy. If we lose, we won’t sleep for a week.”
The one-two punch complements each another well, but not exactly in the good cop, bad cop sense. Danni, a born-and-raised Sedonan, said that she is able to focus on the individual players while Mic sees everything as a whole.
What helps is both coaches know the girls inside and out, and since their own children are out of the house they “now have 20 kids instead of two.”
Danni said she has been coaching the Scorpions athletes since the time they were sixth-graders at Big Park Community School, where she spent seven years coaching.
Coaching with local club team Sedona Juniors is where they built their coaching experience. Danni has been coaching there for 13 years. Mic has been coaching full-time for seven years.
Neither Danni nor Mic have organized, competitive playing experience. They both began learning the game from former Red Rock head coach John Parks while in their 20s.
Their daughter Brenna, who will be a fifth-year senior at West Virginia State in the fall, grew up playing and they learned by attending her camps, games and practices, chatting with coaches and taking notes. Amy Iannocari, Brenna’s club coach at Vertical Thunder, was instrumental in showing Danni techniques as well as the Xs and Os offensively and defensively.
Even though it is their first season as the varsity level, nerves are not a problem.
“It’s kind of second nature, we’re competitive, we know what we can do with these girls, we know how to get things out of them,” Mic Barker said.
Putting the pieces of the puzzle together will begin this July when the team travels to a 30-team camp at Northern Arizona University, where they will experiment with players in different positions.