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South girls move to 10-0 with new coach at the helm

Dan Burkman has been the girls basketball coach at Southmont such a short time that he is still in the process of making and getting first impressions.

But they are all positive.

Southmont’s girls basketball team defeated North Montgomery Tuesday to move to 10-0 on the season, the first time in at least 20 years, and very possibly much longer, that the Mounties have been this perfect this long into the start of a season.

“The first time I met the team was the Thursday before the first practice the following Monday,” Burkman noted.

Hired in October after starting to look to get back into coaching, Burkman wasted no time in bringing his winning way mentality to the Mounties squad, having won three sectionals at Indian Creek before taking three seasons off for family reasons.

At 10-0, to say it’s been a good start is quite the understatement.

He inherited a team with five seniors, part of a highly successful group of Southmont female athletes over the last few years. There were plenty of expectations, but a new coach will bring plenty of changes.

He started with smiling more.

“Smiles mean positive feedback,” he said,”and players feed off the head coach. If I’m mean or nervous, then that’s the message that gets to the players.”

The players have noticed way more than the smiles.

“We are playing together. We are unselfish,” said Natalie Manion, one of the five seniors and one of the team leaders. “Coach has brought a deeper knowledge of the game to all of us.”

The coach, who doesn’t stray far from his chair on the sidelines, operates with arms crossed most of the time, except when giving a fist-bump or a bit of instruction when someone is going in or coming out of the game.

“Coach has been so helpful,” said senior guard Abbey Gass. “We always hustle, we do everything as a team. We have bonded really well and get along really well.”

Burkman has also kept things focused.

“If we haven’t practiced it, we don’t try it in a game,” he noted, saying that he has a grease board for the game, but seldom uses it. “At halftime we cover two or three things and the girls have really responded to that. They go out and really focus on those couple things in the second half, and it has usually paid off.”

The five seniors wondered about getting a new coach for their last season.

“We wondered, of course,” said Addison Charles. “We knew we would have to see how things went, but Coach has been so positive at practice. He has really pushed us, but he listens to us and we listen to him. I really appreciate him and I know we are lucky to have him.”

The coach is also a one-on-one advocate, almost always giving some instruction to a sub that he is sending in, and absolutely talking to whomever is coming out.

“I believe in personal instruction and immediate feedback,” Burkman noted. “It’s so important. I don’t just sit someone. It sends a bad message.”

Sidney Veatch has been a part of a lot of Mounties success over the last two years, and noticed the new guy with the whistle.

“He has made it a loving atmosphere,” she put it.

“I’m not a yeller or a screamer,” Burkman said. “I’m more methodical. We are still learning and still progressing.”

The new coach also had to deal with the pandemic.

“We only had two games in December,” he said. “We had some long stretches of days where we just didn’t know what was going to happen next, and that makes this 10-0 start so great for the kids. It really shows their character.”

The new guy also drew a compliment from a parent.

“He is our Norman Dale,” this dad said, referring to the film coach in the legendary movie “Hoosiers”. “He has come in brand new, taken control of a team loaded with talent and made them successful.”

There are big games in the near future, and the playoffs (hopefully) down the road, but this new coach has put his team first and given them the tools to start a successful season.

Maybe he has a “Picket Fence” play...

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