Alaina Coates could have taken a week off.
After finishing her junior season by helping the Dutch Fork Silver Foxes claim the Class 4A girls basketball title on a Friday night in March, Coates could have enjoyed a well-earned break from practice and training. She could have paused to savor the thrill of a victory three seasons in the making.
“We actually would have given her some time off if she wanted it, but she didn’t. She came out and got busy,” Dutch Fork track coach Noah Dixon said.
Instead, Coates spent the following Monday afternoon working on her shot-put technique.
It was a smart move for the Girls’ Athlete of the Year in the Midlands.
“It showed I was putting my all into it, which is what I wanted to do,” Coates said. “Since we maxed out our basketball season, I didn’t want to take any more time away from training for shotput.”
A strong, 6-foot-4 center who can chuck a basketball baseline to baseline, Coates was well suited for the task.
By May, Coates was again competing in the state finals, this time placing fourth in the state in the Class 4A shot put.
“She wanted to throw 40 feet, she worked really hard to achieve that and she accomplished that goal,” Dixon said. “The people who did better than her in state pretty much throw year-round.”
Coates said she was hoping for the state championship, “but it was a big achievement, to be ranked fourth in the state, in a sport that’s really new to me.” She first tried shot put as a sophomore.
It was the end of a long year of athletics for Coates, who was a starter on the Silver Fox volleyball team in the fall.
“I have those days when I don’t want to train, don’t want to practice, wish I could just take a break. But I have to push past that for my team, and I can just keep going because I’m not a quitter,” Coates said.
Coates’ unrelenting desire for victory helped push the Silver Foxes to the top on the basketball court.
Dutch Fork basketball coach Faye Norris said Coates’ time with the track team the previous year had something to do with that.
“Track being an individual sport, it gives you more work ethic and confidence, and we saw that with her. From the first practice after track season we saw a different kind of leadership from her, and that’s because of the confidence,” Norris said.
“She matured all the way around.”
Coates, one of the S.C. Basketball Coaches Association’s Elite 5 players at the start of the 2011-12 season, felt a change, too.
“I felt like me really stepping into a leadership role was a big contribution to my team,” Coates said. “I was tired of going to the Bi-Lo Center, tired of making it to the Upper State or Lower State championship and losing. I just said, this is what we’re going to do and did everything I could to show that I was going for it.”
As her senior year approaches, Coates is heavily immersed in preparation for basketball season, and is expected to have a busy Division 1 college recruiting season.
Coates is ranked fifth among post players and 35th overall nationwide by ESPNU.com.
For her senior year, she has set her sights on two goals: championships in basketball and shot put.
Her coaches say that is a strong possibility.
“Not only can she win a championship, I believe she can set a state record,” Dixon said.
And Norris said, “In following that championship season, our biggest task is getting the younger girls on board, and Alaina is helping to do that right now.”
“She is setting that example, leaving a legacy and leading the way.”