WKU’s Potts, Teegarden finding way as leaders

Andrew Robinson

When outside hitter Emily Teegarden was a freshman, she’d celebrate points by literally stomping her feet in place and raising her hands in celebration.

After one match, then-assistant coach Ashly Miller told me it was similar to a little kid doing the “potty dance.”

Tuesday night in WKU’s 3-0 sweep of Belmont, Teegarden was still celebrating points. But she’s toned down the celebration and also found a way to turn into a leader alongside fellow senior and defensive specialist Kelly Potts.

“(Teegarden has) certainly really, really grown as a player over four years,” Head Coach Travis Hudson said. “This whole leadership thing is something that isn’t 100 percent comfortable for her right now. I think she’d rather just go out there and play and have fun.”

Potts said she and Teegarden really started focusing on their leadership last spring, but it didn’t come easy. Teegarden and Potts were trying to step out of themselves during practice, and it didn’t work at first. The duo met with Hudson in January to discuss what the team wanted and needed from them.

“Emily and I are opposite of what we had last year,” Potts said. “Her and I are a little more the quiet, kind of sit back a bit and let things happen type — and for us to get out of our shells has been a huge change for both of us. And a challenge.”

Hudson said the duo isn’t the type to jump down the throats of their teammates.

“Emily is a free-spirit, carefree kind of kid out there. Kelly Potts is more of a motherly type figure out there,” Hudson said. “But we’ve adapted to it, and they’ve both done a really, really good job.”

Teegarden said she has to learn to be a leader in her own way, while also remaining the same player that her teammates have come to know.

“It’d probably freak me out (to yell at people) more than it would freak them out,” Teegarden said. “I think what my teammates wanted from me most was just to be myself and be the happy, crazy Emily that just goes crazy.”

The pair is another example of Hudson’s ability to bring young players into the program and make sure they exit as better leaders and, more importantly, better people.

No matter the year, go and ask Hudson what he hopes his seniors got out of their experience at WKU, and he’ll probably tell you that he wants his players to leave with degrees and as improved people, both on and off the court.

Potts and Teegarden weren’t a part of the same freshman class, as Potts was redshirted her freshman year. But four years later, the duo is leading the Lady Toppers into Sun Belt Conference play with the momentum of an 11-4 start to the season.

The leadership formula from here on out, Potts said, appears to be fairly simple.

“I think it’s more doing what we need to do and worrying about ourselves,” Potts said. “(It’s) making sure we’re carrying the team and doing what’s needed of us and carrying the leadership roles.”