Feb. 5, 2009
Rome, Ga. - Being a good basketball coach is something that usually takes time to develop. There are, however, those who are born blessed with the ability to lead - like Dana Abrams.
After closing the book on a highly successful playing career at Armuchee High and Shorter College, Abrams is combining her knowledge of the game with the leadership skills she mastered on the court as a player to pursue her dream of teaching kids and coaching the game she so loves by serving a graduate assistant this season for Shorter's Lady Hawks.
"The qualities Dana brought to our team, besides what she did on the court," Shorter head women's basketball coach Vic Mitchell said of Abrams, "were just as important in the locker room.
"She had it," he added about the former point guard's leadership traits. "She was a great leader. She could relate in a positive way to everybody and on a team you need a set core of players who everybody listens to."
Having completed her four-year career as a Lady Hawk, one that saw her become Shorter's starting point guard in her final two years, Abrams saw the door to coaching open when she and Mitchell found themselves on common ground.
"Those qualities she had when she played," said Mitchell, "led me to sit down with Dana and talk about (being a graduate assistant.) It was a win-win situation."
"I definitely wanted to get my masters," said Abrams, who was a Southern States Athletic Conference All-Academic selection, "and to be able to do this that helps pay for school - it's a blessing."
"She's completing her graduate work," Mitchell added, "and I knew she would bring those same qualities she had when she played to our staff, and she has."
In addition to helping Mitchell and the Lady Hawks by working with the team's guards, Abrams has seen the inner workings of coaching from one end of the spectrum to the other, tasked with the logistics end of a program such as travel plans, meals and organizing summer camps for kids, to watching endless hours of game videos to prepare for games."
"It's different," Abrams admitted. "You don't miss the practices and all the sprints, but when you see a game you want to be out there so bad. It's time consuming and it seems like a live in the office or in the gym. There's so much I didn't know going on."
"You can't run a program without knowing how to do those administrative things a coach needs to know," Mitchell said. "She's seeing all aspects of the game. And she has a feel of what our players will do, especially the returning players."
Abrams' close relationship with the team - she was voted as the permanent team captain last year - remains strong, just as it was when she was leading the Lady Hawks on a fast break or running a play when she played.
"Because I am a friend," Abrams said, "they come to me to see what they need to do and they ask me things. But I'm not with them in the locker room. I'm not part of that aspect any more."
"Every team I've been on I've been a team captain," she said. "I guess it's because I was a person they looked up to and I think as a coach you need the same thing. I've never been one to criticize. I've always been one to support."
And that kind of support helps Shorter's program in many other ways as well.
"She's a people person," said Mitchell, "and we use Dana to help with recruiting. She graduated from here, loves Shorter, knows the program and she makes people feel comfortable."
Comfortable is what Abrams knows the Lady Hawks will be on Saturday when they host SSAC foe Southern Poly, just the second home game the team has had since the start of the new year. Shorter (13-8 overall, 8-4 in the conference) enters the game fresh from a 55-39 win at Brewton-Parker on Tuesday, a win that snapped a three-game losing slump.
"Being back home is huge for us," Abrams said, "and we've got to take care of business."