A moment I’ll never forget, caught in a picture

tylerWatkinsRoamingOnce in awhile, because of my job, I find myself viewing a scene that will live on forever in my mind. Usually, it’s a split second moment that’s an incredible image and screams for my camera that is usually tucked away in a bag or pocket. I encountered one of those images this past week, except this time, I was ready.

Just a little back history for you. North Myrtle Beach volleyball, and really volleyball along the Grand Strand has been slowly improving over the last several years.  Along the way, the Chiefs were coached by Estelle Barrentine. Barrentine’s 2012 team made it to the state championship game and won. It really had been a long time in the making. Many of the girls on that team began at the recreation center, and kept playing, usually year round. Once they got to high school, they began playing club ball in the off-season.

One of those athletes that helped build the Chiefs’ program was Erica Allman. Allman excelled in high school at North Myrtle Beach and went on to play for Columbia College. In college, Allman continued to rack up awards including the Appalachian Athletic Conference’s Libero of the year in 2011.

After graduation, Allman continued to contribute to the sport she loved, taking various coaching positions on the club level and working with the high school and Coach Barrentine’s teams.

When that 2012 team won the state championship, Coach Barrentine decided that it was time for someone else to take the reins of the program and continue the course. She chose Erica Allman, and the administration at NMBHS agreed. Young Allman would take over and attempt to continue the success of what was now legendary Coach Barrentine.

Through the 2013 season, Coach Allman and her team rolled through opponents at will, getting better and more in sync every game. As the state playoffs began, it became apparent that this top seeded, number one ranked North Myrtle Beach Chief squad was very talented and skilled.

They easily rolled through their first round opponent Orangeburg-Wilkinson at home. When Marlboro County came to town, the Chiefs sent them home without winning a single set. The Chiefs were dominating.

Coach Allman guided her team along, while the now retired Coach Barrentine ran the scoreboard. Nobody ever thought she would simply disappear, nor did they want her to. You could see the joy in Coach Barrentine’s face after every game. She was enjoying watching the student become the coach.

Hilton Head would become the third victim of the Chiefs in what some thought would be their toughest test. It wasn’t. Hilton Head got close for just a couple of minutes in a game that was dominated by NMB. With the win, the Chiefs would now play for the Lower State title, at home.

As the gym at NMBHS filled on Wednesday night, the Lady Chiefs were excited and as hyped up as I’ve ever seen a team. They were simply fired up. It almost seemed like the ladies were celebrating getting to the event and that it was a foregone conclusion that they would win.

The Chiefs faced Airport, and they played fantastic. Those ladies played with precision, skill, teamwork, power, and had a lot of fun doing so. They celebrated each spike (kill) with a packed house of NMB faithful including the newly re-elected Mayor.

As the players played, celebrated, and cheered, rookie coach and region coach of the year Erica Allman nervously paced in front of and behind the bench. Her mind was racing through every possible scenario for every point. It was all business for her.

It wasn’t until the final horn sounded and the Chiefs had won in straight sets that Allman finally let go. And that’s when it happened, that image that will stay in my mind forever. This time though, I had that camera ready.

The master, Coach Barrentine came from behind the table and found the apprentice, turned leader, Coach Allman. As they hugged to celebrate, Coach Allman lost it. This was a flood of emotions that had been in the works for many years, through practices, matches, the return to NMB, a summer full of workouts, and a season of wins. Coach Allman was taking her team back to the state finals.

The moment was quick. If you see in the picture, the news media is collapsing quickly on the two coaches embracing. Once cameras began rolling, it changed the scene as both coaches realized that they were now on TV. Allman dried up and with cameras and microphones pointed in her direction, she began to tell about this amazing group of players and how proud she was of them. After that, everyone wanted to speak with Allman.

Coach Barrentine quietly slid back and let Coach Allman receive all the praise and love. The scene was over, but it’s one I’ll never forget.

It’s been said that a picture tells a thousand words, and in this case I would agree. It’s the picture of success, and pride, and accomplishment, and emotion, and victory. It’s the picture of a young lady that had so many hopes and dreams, and succeeding. I could go on and on, but to use another cliché’, you had to be there. I’m so very glad that I was.

Coach

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