By Kelly Magee | firstname.lastname@example.org
Some people want success, some wish it would happen on its own and others make success happen.
In 10 years as head coach of the Flagler College women’s basketball team, Erika Lang Montgomery made her own success. She grew the college’s NCAA program from scratch and this season, led the team to a 21-8 record – the best in the program’s history – and was honored as the Peach Belt Conference’s Coach of the Year in March.
Montgomery started playing basketball when she was 13 and later received a scholarship to play at the University of Florida.
After 14 years of being a Division I assistant coach, Montgomery felt the need to take her career to the next level and “the bug bit” her that she wanted to be a head coach.
At the time, Flagler College was transitioning from the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletes to NCAA Division II, which was very appealing to Montgomery.
“The opportunity to come in and have my own program and to build something from the bottom up made it very special. I came to visit on my interview and fell in love with it and said this was a great place that I could call home and a place where I could grow the program,” Montgomery said.
Although the team has a regular routine: weight lifting, conditioning and practice and games, every day brings something different, according to Montgomery.
“It’s a lot of fun,” she said. “There’s no same day. You learn to make adjustments along the way and you go with the flow and take what comes next.”
Two of Montgomery’s priorities for her athletes are community service and academic excellence. Community service is a huge part of the program and the team will take any opportunity there is to serve, according to Montgomery.
She also stresses the importance of her athletes getting their degree and feeling accomplished when they walk across the stage at graduation.
Another important aspect of coaching that Montgomery enjoys is the relationships she has made with her team.
“It’s not just about trying to win basketball games. The relationships are so, so important,” Montgomery said. “There’s a lot of former players that I stay in contact with. I love following them on their career paths and their journey in life as moms or coaches and just being able to congratulate them and tell them how proud of them I am.”
The team participates in bonding exercises at the beginning of the season and they continue to grow closer throughout the season – traveling to games on the bus, staying in hotels and eating at restaurants.
The team also has dinners at Montgomery’s house and celebrates every player’s birthday with a cake. One year, Montgomery asked her assistant to pick up a birthday cake from Publix for one of the players.
“I usually just get a cake from the freezer section and have them write happy birthday on it, but I guess I didn’t explain that,” Montgomery said.
When the assistant brought the cake to practice, Montgomery and the team noticed that the cake looked nicer than usual, but they did not think much of it.
“Well it turned out, this was a local player, it was the cake that her mother had ordered for the family birthday celebration later that night. So we had eaten that cake and her mom had to go get another cake,” Montgomery said.
Though she did not have the instant, quick success she hoped for, Montgomery feels the bumps and bruises along the way helped her and the team get to where they are now.
“I feel like I’ve learned a lot in the 10 years that I’ve been here as a head coach and I feel like now I’m able to share that with the next group of women that choose to become Flagler Saints,” Montgomery said.