By LYDIA BERGLAR
As announced by the Dade County School System and covered in the previous edition of the Sentinel, Coach Katie Burrows will be leading the Lady Wolverines basketball team starting this upcoming season. The Sentinel chatted with the former University of Tennessee, Chattanooga women’s basketball head coach about her connection to Dade County and hopes for the team.
Burrows’ long-standing relationship with DCHS’ Principal Brent Cooper and Athletic Director Vic Grider piqued her interest in Dade County. “When they called to ask me about the opportunity, I entertained the idea because I know them well,” Burrows said. “I started talking with Brent more. He was sharing his vision for the school and athletics and how he wants it to grow. Knowing him personally, I know he’s not going to be complacent. I’ll never get bored, and we’ll always have something to strive for.”
She added that the timing was right after taking a year off of coaching. As she considered what else to pursue and how she could use her time, her passion ultimately came back to coaching and basketball.
She has long been familiar with Dade County and our basketball program. She recalled, “Gene Durden [former coach] was around when I was playing. He started some wonderful traditions that I hear have continued.”
Burows is excited to coach at a school where there is a lot of support for women’s basketball, saying, “There’s a huge support system for girls basketball [at Dade]. Whether they’re playing well or struggling, there’s rarely an open seat. I also like that it’s a smaller school system.”
She added that Grider and Cooper shared encouraging stories. “They told stories about things breaking, but two days later, someone from the community donated something or helped fix it.”
While the family is settled in Lookout Valley, Burrows hopes her daughters will one day join her at Dade. “If I stay here for any length of time, my kids are going to want to join me.”
As she enters her first season at a new school, Burrows plans to focus on getting to know the players while they also get to know her. “One thing I’ve realized in all my years of coaching is that the most important part is the relationships. I told the team that they’re getting the best version of me. If they’d had me when I first started coaching in 2005…I didn’t know what I was doing then. It’s about them, not me. I want them to achieve their goals, individually and collectively.”
Regarding potential future players, Burrows believes that recreation leagues set up young players to reach the high school level. She’s already been connected with the Dade County Recreation Association, saying, “I’m hoping to get a better understanding of [how the rec league works]. If we can get young players off to a good start through rec basketball, [interest builds] and word-of-mouth helps.”
Burrows will have the month of May to work with players while helping with the summer basketball camp, but she said, “It’s going to be challenging. I really won’t get them fully until mid-October.” She noted that all but one of the current players on the roster are multi-sport athletes.
Burrows is prepared to hit the ground running in May and again in October. “We’ll have to hit that first week hard. I’ve been looking at some film, trying to get a feel for some of them. I want to help each player know what her role will be.”
One goal that Burrows is prepared to work on is forming a team in which each player understands her role. She explained, “You have to figure out who’s going to work best together. Sometimes it’s hard for players to hear the truth, and sometimes it’s hard for adults. You may not be able to shoot a lick, but if you can defend, I can use you. We’ll find what you’re good at, and we can put all the pieces together.”
With prior coaching experience at both the high school and college level, Burrows noted, “In college, we’re handpicking kids who are specializing in that sport. In my experience in high school, I’ve had a lot of athletes who play basketball, but not a lot of basketball players.” While Burrows is in favor of multi-sport athletes, part of her job is to train basketball players specifically.
She continued, “In high school, you have to keep it fun and keep them engaged. We all want to win, but we also have to know what the players’ goals are. They may not all be hoping to play in college. They might just play because they enjoy it.”
The love of competition and the joy of watching players grow is what keeps Burrows invested in coaching. She said, “I’m a competitor, and coaching is the best way for me to fill that void. Also, when you work with a kid for a long time on something, and the light finally comes on…it’s a really cool thing to experience, especially with the younger kids.”