When it came to landing a head coaching job at Garnet Valley, Alie Alkins didn’t know what to think.
She worried that her relative youth and only two seasons of part-time coaching experience would be a detriment. But despite her age, Alkins’ qualifications are impressive.
For starters, Alkins was a four-time All-Delco softball player at Sun Valley (2009-12). She was an all-state player and piled up awards both for her academic and athletic prowess.
At Widener University, Alkins was selected as a Capital One Academic All-America and made the Capital One Academic All-District First Team, the Academic All-Middle Atlantic Conference Team, the NFCA All-East Region Third Team and the All-Middle Atlantic Conference Commonwealth First Team. She was the valedictorian of Widener’s Class of 2016.
“I tried to remain positive after the interview was over,” said Alkins, 24. “I know that I am young, but I’ve been with this group of girls for two years. I also knew that I didn’t have as much experience as other candidates. But I know that I want to be a coach, that this is something I want to do. I know I can be good at it.”
It turns out Alkins left a pretty good impression. Last week, Garnet Valley athletic director Seth Brunner offered her the position and Alkins accepted, though she is only two years removed from college. She’s now one of the youngest high school varsity coaches in Delaware County.
“At first I was kind of in shock and didn’t say anything,” Alkins said, laughing. “It’s overwhelming. But I’m so excited to get going, I have so many ideas and things I want to do. At the same time I still have those nerves thinking about it. I’ve had a chance to see some other coaches and know a little about what it’s like to coach. It’s exciting, but it’s kind of like having first-day-of-school butterflies.”
Alkins is a special education teacher in the Garnet Valley School District. She was an assistant coach at the high school the last two seasons and will replace George White, who guided the Jaguars to the PIAA Class 6A playoffs this year.
“Coach White did some amazing things for the Garnet Valley softball program in his three years as head coach and re-established Garnet Valley softball as one of the top programs in the Central League. We wish him the best of luck in his future endeavors,” Brunner said in an email to the Daily Times. “Alie has deep roots in Delco as both a high school and college player. She was an assistant coach with our team the last two years and is a special education teacher in our district. We are thrilled to have Coach Alkins lead our program.”
Alkins has established a rapport with her players. The fact that Alkins is so young only helps her cause. It was only six years ago she was starting at shortstop and leading Sun Valley to a District 1 title.
“I’m pretty close in age to a lot of these girls, so I get them. I also went through the same exact things they’re going through now. Everything with the recruiting process, you’ve got your proms going on and you’re trying to pass your AP classes. You’re trying to manage everything,” Alkins said. “I definitely had that going for me. I can relate to them. I want to get rolling but I also want to give myself some time to process it and figure it out. There’s a ton of responsibility that a head coach has that you don’t realize until you finally do it.”
Alkins said she wants to instill in her players the courage to be themselves, with a focus on determination and hard work. Alkins, who still plays the sport summer weeknights in the Suburban Women’s League, hopes some of the tools and attributes she possessed as a standout on the diamond can translate into coaching.
“There are a lot of great leaders on the team and I want to help bring out those qualities. I want them to be able to help me run the team, in a sense,” Alkins said. “You want to help them be the best student they can be, because school is equally as important, and that is a huge focus of mine. You also want them to be not just the best athlete, but the best person they can be.
“If everyone could be Carson Wentz, he is the ideal human being and athlete, both on and off the field. Helping build those leaders on the team and bringing that positive energy and allowing them to have their own team rituals and having fun with it, that’s a huge thing.”
Alkins is at the helm of a team that includes All-Delcos Lindsey Hunt and Diane Torregrossa, both rising seniors, and many promising underclassmen. The Jags should be one of the favorites for the Central League title.
“We have pretty much the same team coming back, and with the playoff experience we’ve had, it’s only going to add to this great big thing that can happen,” Alkins said. “I just want to know they can be good people when they leave high school and have a love of softball, that it doesn’t have to be a job. Sometimes it can feel like that when they’re involved with so many teams, whether it’s high school or travel ball. I want them to have fun with it. That will be the biggest thing, but that we also win games, too.”