An assistant for the Panthers girls team, Emily Loftus now will lead the program.
As Emily Loftus was cleaning out her classroom at Dr. Phillips High School, everything was seemingly normal.
Summer vacation was just underway, and Loftus was about to head off into hers before a phone call stopped her in her tracks.
Volleyball head coach Danny Eleutiza — who Loftus assisted under last season — informed her that he was offered a job he couldn’t turn down, and that he had also told athletic director Steve McHale to tap her as the new volleyball coach.
“I’m stunned at this point — it hit me like a brick wall,” Loftus said. “And I want to say that 10 minutes after that phone call, coach Steve McHale found me in my classroom and said, ‘We need to talk.’ He just said that he thinks that I would be the best fit and he didn’t plan on opening the position to anyone.
“I am kind of over the moon right now, but there is this strange mix of emotions where I’m unbelievably excited and a little anxious,” she said.
That familiarity she has with the students — thanks in part to being both an assistant and teacher at DP — will be a huge advantage for Loftus. Instead of starting out totally new, Loftus understands what’s expected and already has relationships set with current players.
It also helps that she learned a lot during her year as an assistant under Eleutiza, which includes looking past the now and seeing the future.
“I learned everything last year … now, this year, I understand exactly what it is I’m walking into when it comes these girls and what is expected out of us,” Loftus said. “It’s not a team — you are developing a program. That’s kind of my biggest focus right now is making sure that we are not really focused on the starting six, but that we are focused on the entire development of the program.”
“I am kind of over the moon right now, but there is this strange mix of emotions where I’m unbelievably excited and a little anxious.”
— Emily Loftus
And while there is a deep familiarity between Loftus and her players, the relationship won’t quite be the same as it was last year, Loftus said.
During her time as an assistant, one of her biggest roles was that of mentor. If girls had any issues, they’d go straight to Loftus to talk about things — in a way, she was like a big sister.
But now, as the head coach, things will change because she has many more hats to wear than what she used to.
“I’m also a teacher at the school and Danny wasn’t, so I was the one who was kind of seeing them every day and I was kind of in their lives more every day, but at the same time I was the assistant coach — I was the fun assistant,” Loftus said.
“I’m always going to be there for them, but I can no longer be the big sister on the team,” she said. “I think the girls are prepared for it, because they’ve either had me as their club coach this year or they’ve been trained by me at club or they had me as their beach coach.”
While schools are still fresh into summer break, Loftus is already trying to fast forward through time to get her players back into the gym and playing. And what coach wouldn’t? Especially given the season that awaits her.
“There’s so many things to be excited about,” Loftus said. “We have that God-given talent that I can’t give to somebody. I’m so lucky to have the girls that I have.”