Abi: I guess that last year I was pretty much known as the little girl with the pony tail. This summer I slowly got it cut shorter, starting around the banquet. Then in the summer I moved in with Ashley Mac, and it was hot, and we were like, "we've gotta get rid of this hair!" It was the longest her hair had been for a while, and we chopped it all off, shorter than I've ever had it.
So then we came back out here, and I knew a lot of the fans hadn't seen me since I had had it cut. All these people came up to me after the game and were like, "We didn't know who you are!" Even when I was out there, I saw people that I knew and I'd wave at them and smile, and I knew they didn't really recognize me.
Everybody really likes it short, and I originally thought I might keep it short, but with basketball, it's just so easy to have a ponytail, so I'm going to go back to my girly girl style and get my ponytail back.
VM: Do you recognize this picture? Where is it?
Abi: That's the state tournament semi-finals my senior year against Mt. Juliet.
VM: Talk about your hairstyle in that picture.
It started my freshman year at Grundy. Some people did the twisties, and we won at state that year. Then I didn't wear them my sophomore year, and so I started it back my junior year when we got to the state tournament, and we won. Then we went back my senior year, and it was like a tradition -- I had to have the twisties every year for the state tournament.
VM: I think that pretty much takes care of the hairstyles. How about coaching styles? This is your third high-profile coach in three years. You played for Rick Insell, one of the top high school coaches in country at Shelbyville. Then you played for Jim Foster, one of the top college coaches, and now you're playing for Melanie Balcomb, one of the top up-and-coming coaches in the country. Could you to talk about what's the same and what's different about their coaching styles?
Abi: Well, probably Coach Balcomb reminds me more of Coach Rick in comparison to Coach Foster and Coach Rick. They're both really up-tempo. Coach Foster was more of a slow-it-down kind of coach, and I had never played for anyone like that before. Coach Balcomb and Coach Rick -- they're willing to take chances. Everything is fast -- get the quick shot, get the easy shot, whatever's open--take it. Coach Foster was more about the disciplined shot.
One thing that he and Coach Insell had in common was they're both really structured coaches, like it has to be done a certain way. You'll run a play the whole practice, so everybody will know exactly what he expects -- what's a good pass, what's a good shot.
Coach Balcomb is more free. There's not really any limits to who can shoot and who can do whatever. It's all about showing what you can do and putting it out there. Coach Foster was always more of a post-oriented coach, so we would spend most of the practices finding ways to work open Chantelle. We would go inside, and then come outside.
Now, with Coach Balcomb, we're outside, we're getting the guards shooting, trying to open the inside. So just for me, it's been hard for me because I went from Coach Insell who was very structured, a coach who had people he wanted to go to, then going to Coach Foster who was a "slow-down, everything's disciplined, nothing out of the ordinary" kind of a coach, and then to Coach Balcomb who is like "no limits -- go go go go".
VM: Now that you've been working with the new style, how do you feel about it?
Abi: I'm excited. Just for me individually as a player, I've already improved so much -- like on my shot, which a lot of people thought that's the one thing I wouldn't have to worry about. Well, it's what I need the most work on right now because I've always been a stiff-legged straight up-and-down shooter, never bent my knees. As soon as they got here, that's the first thing we worked on -- getting low, off the dribble, off the shot, pass, everything. To be a player, I have to be low.
And with her, I think I realize that-- I would get into games last year, where I kind of wouldn't know what my role was. I'd get in there confused, thinking,"Well, as long as I hit Chantelle . . . " With her, I feel like I'm kind of finding my identity and my role on the team. I think everybody else is, too. That's what's making the practice so much more intense because everybody has to step up to that level because she has given you the chance.
Photo by Venessa Ferragamo