NEW PARIS — National Trail’s head volleyball coach Eric Burkhart is in his second season with the Blazers and wants to see a continued improvement from his team.
“We want to be better than last year. We were 5-18. I would like to be at .500. I want to be better than the year before. With trying to change the program around, it’s going to be long term. As long as I see progress each year, then we are on the right track,” said Burkhart.
Burkhart is trying to bring the Blazers up to speed with the rest of the conference, implementing a “Little Blazers” volleyball league to get the girls interested in volleyball at a young age.
“We’re playing catch-up right now with everyone in our conference, especially Miami East. They’ve been the powerhouse so I want to at least get the program to where we can compete within our conference,” said Burkhart. “Our first goal for the season is to have fun. Right now, it feels like we are behind. It’s not the girls, it’s everybody – the whole program itself.”
The program graduated all six starters from last season, but is senior-lead once again. The Blazers will start four seniors – Nicole Witt, Kaylee Simpson, Tori Saunders, and Tessa Rhodus.
Freshman Lauren Moore will be the libero for National Trail as well.
Burkhart’s biggest goal for the program is getting the girls in a more positive way of thinking.
“I feel that when anybody says, ‘Hey we are playing National Trail in volleyball,’ the first thing that comes to their mind is they think it’s an easy game,” said Burkhart. “I want to change that. I want to change that negative mindset to a positive mindset. I have the talent, but they need to utilize it. I know they can do it, but it’s that mindset.”
The Blazers have even adopted a team motto: “We are family.” Burkhart isn’t sure where the motto originated, but he likes that it encompasses the aspect of teamwork.
“How we think of (the motto) is that we are going to go in, we’re going to have fights, we’re going to have arguments, we’re going to have disagreements. But we are still family. We still act like family,” he said. “I want to have them have that family mindset. We are in it together.”
National Trail has currently started off the season 0-3 at the time of this printing. The Blazers lost to Valley View (15-25, 19-25), Preble Shawnee (15-25, 14-25), and Brookville (21-25, 18-25, 11-25).
They hosted Union County on Monday, Aug. 25, and will be traveling to Newton on Thursday, Aug. 28, to open up league play.