NORWICH – After establishing a career as a public defender and defense attorney, Tamara DeBerry needed a break, shifting away from the courtroom to the volleyball court.
In the midst of the pandemic, the 30-something DeBerry turned to another passion – the sport of volleyball – to challenge herself as she eases back into a general practice of law.
Norwich Free Academy hired DeBerry, who lives in Westbrook, as girls volleyball coach before the school year. DeBerry was an All-State volleyball player in Illinois before thrusting her energy into education. She graduated from Western Michigan University Law School and has been practicing law for over 10 years.
DeBerry previous coached at Masuk High, Trumbull High and Ethel Walker School in Simsbury.
“I needed to humanize myself,” DeBerry said. “I needed a break in my career. Being around youth keeps me human.”
NFA slipped into the Class LL state tournament last season with a near .500 record but graduated a number of seniors. A solid nucleus of seniors return, headed by setter Sarah Ericson, whom DeBerry already nominated as NFA Athlete of the Month despite the fact the Wildcats open late (Thursday) because of COVID-19 protocols.
“She’s athletic and a natural leader who has been great in practice,” DeBerry said. “She’s the quarterback of the team.”
DeBerry typically employs an offensive philosophy with big hitters at the net. She is adapting her style to fit NFA’s current roster of shorter, quicker athletes.
“We should be more defensive minded,” DeBerry said. “We have seniors and juniors with good court awareness. We don’t have a lot of tall hitters but our offense will come.”
Seniors Kayley Williams and Anna Dutrumble are outside hitters who will benefit from the setting of Ericson. Tessa McLaughlin and Katie Reischeri are senior middle hitters. Arianna Gauthier will be a fixture at libero.
“We’ll have four players who don’t rotate out,” DeBerry said. “They’re good all-around players and good listeners. They’re like little sponges.”
Juniors Molly Plecan, Brianne Surfus and Nicole Rios-Ceron are juniors who will fill out the rotation among others who may earn time.
CIAC girls volleyball players must wear masks because of COVID rules. Balls must be washed often, and no spectators will be allowed at games. Volleyball is typically an emotional game where players celebrate points to high-fiving. That can’t happen this fall because of social distancing procedures.
“Everybody’s lives are different now, but you have to find a way to adapt,” DeBerry said. “I think kids are more open to change than adults. You can’t socially distance on the court but we won’t have high-fives. For me, it’s causing me to communicate more verbally, giving them encouragement.”
As an attorney, DeBerry is well-versed in conversation.
“There is similarity between jobs with the communication either be it with clients or the players,” DeBerry said. “I’m enjoying getting back into coaching.”