Culture shock: Devine brings new energy to Alabama volleyball

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Culture shock: Devine brings new energy to Alabama volleyball

UA Athletics

UA Athletics

UA Athletics

UA Athletics

James Benedetto, Assistant Sports Editor

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When a team is successful, those within the organization point to different reasons for its success.

Many will praise the players and coaches, and some will point toward the team camaraderie, but few recognize that for a group to become successful and sustain that success, it needs an identity, a specific culture.

When Lindsey Devine was hired as Alabama’s new volleyball head coach last December, she brought a culture over 16 years in the making. For the Crimson Tide, the message is a simple question: “How can I be a servant leader?”

“We talk about it on a daily basis. ‘How can I be a servant leader? How can I be better for my teammates?’” Devine said. “More of the less of myself and more of being selfless is, for me, a theme that we have talked about with our team. It has to be something we work on every single day.”

The culture is not the only difference Devine is making in the program. Her arrival has created a different buzz around the team both on and off the court.

During a preseason intrasquad scrimmage, Devine and her staff were adamant about the small details of the game. They offered praise and constructive criticism about each facet of players’ games, from good form on their sets to being more effective from the service line.  

“On the court, she is intense,” senior middle blocker Hayley McSparin said. “She expects a lot of us, but at the same time, she cares about us. So, if we are not doing too well, she is not going to [critique] us too hard but she still expects a lot out of us.”

Devine’s passion for the game dates back to the ninth grade, when she found that sports helped her cope with her father’s death. Within two years she had zeroed in on volleyball and she went on to play collegiately at York University in Toronto. 

As an outside hitter, Devine helped the Lions win four all-province titles and earned a bronze medal at the 1985 National Championships. Her success did not come easily, as she had to battle just to travel with the team.

“When I went to York, I was No. 13 on a 12-man roster,” Devine said. “I did not like that, so I worked my butt off in the offseason to ensure that I would be traveling. But [former York head coach Merv Mosher] was so patient and really created such value in all of our team, and him demonstrating that to us all the time really hit me home.”

Mosher’s coaching style of building relationships with the players has translated to Devine’s coaching style with Alabama.

“She is quick to make sure the team is together,” senior outside hitter Ginger Perinar said. “She cares about you as a person, and she makes sure that you care about the person next to you just as much as yourself.”

Throughout the preseason, Devine has used some unique ways to promote team bonding, including a team book titled “Chop Wood, Carry Water” and a dessert competition. Early in the preseason, the team was split up into groups and had a list of criteria the dessert needed to meet. Similar to a competitive cooking show, teams were given a certain amount of time to buy the ingredients and make the dessert.

The team of redshirt freshman Layne Stone and redshirt junior Ashley Homan was the eventual winners of the competition.

“They made scooped-out watermelon, and they made skewers and made it like it was a hot rocks idea with the brownies in the watermelon,” Devine said. “It was pretty phenomenal.”

The team-building exercises seem to have already made an impression on Devine’s players. McSparin said the team seems closer this season than it has in years past.

“Everyone just really wants to get better,” McSparin said. “So everyone is taking every chance they get to watch the team and watch themselves to see what they did wrong, see what they did right.”

Devine knows her team still has a ways to go, however.

“I think it just shifts back to that mindset and just trusting the process,” Devine said. “The team that we are now, we’re not going to be that team in November.”