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File / The Outlook Coosa Central’s Keana White (6) is one of just four seniors the Cougars will have to replace under the direction of new coach Chris Elliott.

It was the Army that actually first introduced Chris Elliott to his love of volleyball.

After graduating from Clay County, Elliott joined the military where he first played the game.

“Then I’ve just been around it my whole life,” Elliott said.

Since becoming a teacher, Elliott has been a head coach at Horseshoe Bend and Talladega City and also spent time at Fayetteville.

After a bit of a hiatus to watch his sons, Austin and Brock, play baseball at Benjamin Russell, Elliott is hitting the courts once again. He has been named the head volleyball coach at Central Coosa where he’ll also teach elementary PE.

“When coach (Doris) Gamble retired, that position became available and I was already looking to get back into education,” Elliott said. “It’s close to the house and it was just a blessing that it happened this way.”

Although Elliott hasn’t taken his spot back in front of a class just yet as his official first day is next week, he’s already spent quite some time with his team. The Cougars are returning quite a bit of talent after graduating just four seniors from last year’s squad. And even though these girls have never had to adjust to a new coach, Elliott said they seem to be responding well to him.

“They’ve been great,” he said. “Coach Gamble left a really good situation there and a great group of girls. They’re very talented, very motivated and I think we’re going to be OK. We have a lot of work to do to get the rust off and everything, but we’re looking to compete strongly in our area and do pretty well.”

And there are pretty high expectations for Coosa, which competes in Class 2A Area 8. The Cougars have won three of their last four area championships, and there’s a little bit of pressure for Elliott to live up to the expectations set under Gamble.

“She did have success here so I feel like I have some shoes to fill,” Elliott said. “But with the girls she left me and the background I have, I think we’re going to do OK. I do want to do good and I have expectations for them. I’ve expressed that to them and they’re responding very well to that and trying to reach those goals.”

Elliott has been around sports his whole life and he’s been around a lot of different coaches. As for his coaching style, he said he is hard-nosed but he’s not as intense as some of the coaches he’s been around.

“I do believe in a strong work ethic and I do believe in a team having discipline,” Elliott said. “If they don’t have discipline, it’s going to be hard to compete and the team to play as one.”

And like most coaches, Elliott knows there’s more to being a head coach of a sports team than just grooming talent on the court.

“I’m there to be a leader for them and to teach them the game of volleyball and how to compete,” he said. “There’s a lot of life skills involved in that. Young ladies need to learn life isn’t easy. They have to work hard and compete for what they want and go after it. That’s why we set goals and high expectations then we do everything we can to reach them because that’s kind of how life is.”

Lizi Arbogast is the sports editor at Tallapoosa Publishers, Inc.