WASHBURN, Maine — Diana Trams knew when she took over the reins as the Washburn High School girls basketball coach in November that it could look like a no-win situation for her, even if the Beavers won a lot.
That’s because when Trams opened practice, her first-ever as a head coach, the Beavers had already won the last two Class D state championships and were near-perfect doing it.
“If we won the state title again, they could say I did it because of all the talent we had back,” she said. “If we lost, then it would be me.”
Trams led Washburn to a perfect season and its third straight state D championship.
“We were happy with how it turned out,” said Washburn Athletic Director Ron Ericson. “She inherited big expectations, and she was able to handle all that stuff really well.”
Trams, who applied for and got the job in the fall after former coach Mike Carlos was not rehired last spring, felt that she got nothing but support from the Washburn community.
“Even though I just moved back recently, they knew I was an Aroostook County girl and had a good run with Ashland,” said Trams, who was Diana Belskis when she led the Hornets to the state D title in 1991 as a player. “So they were getting excited about the year and what the season was going to bring.”
“I knew from when she was a player that she was tough-minded,” Ericson said. “Being a more mature person, that was a good factor [in her performance].”
The excitement in the community came from the fact that most of the members of the two title-winning teams would still be there and only one would be a senior — center and co-captain Olivia Doody.
Other key returnees included sophomore guard Mackenzie Worcester, who scored her 1,000th point in Washburn’s 75-55 state-title win over Richmond; junior guard and co-captain Carmen Bragg, junior forward Carsyn Koch and junior forward Nicole Olson; sophomore guard Joan Overman would return from shoulder surgery in mid-January.
Trams met with the team at the beginning of the season to talk to them about what she expected: Work hard in every practice and game, which they did. She also asked what individual goals the players might have and pointed out those goals couldn’t come at the expense of the team goals.
“I just wanted to make sure that we were on the same page there, and there wasn’t any issue there,” said Trams. “They really bought into that, and I think that was one reason we had a successful season.”
She continued the Beavers’ familiar uptempo game plan for this season.
“When Mike Carlos was there [for the first two titles in the run], he knew these girls could run,” said Trams, “so you kind of structure your offense, and your defense even, around trying to make sure that you’re uptempo if you have speed.”
That doesn’t mean she didn’t find areas that needed work.
One such facet was shot selection and the need sometimes to be more patient.
“I told somebody after one of our playoff games that we’re not great in a half-court offense because, quite frankly, they haven’t had to do it a whole lot,” Trams said. “They got a lot of transition points, and points off turnovers, and that [half-court game] was something we’ve really had to work on this year.”
And she already knows one major facet that they’ll have to work on next year.
“Rebounding,” Trams responded quickly. “That’s not a strong suit of ours. That was definitely an area where I wish we had more time to work on that.”
She also plans to make adjustments herself. In talking to other coaches, including her dad, longtime Ashland coach Peter Belskis, she sees ways she can add more and better structure to practice.
“She had a big learning curve like any first-year coach would have,” said Ericson.
Time does seem to fly during any season, but Trams said she also felt the impact of long bus trips and long days between working as an intern in the guidance department followed by practices.
“I have two little kids that haven’t seen a whole lot of me,” Trams said, laughing. “Even after the state championship on Saturday, Monday we had a reception at the school and Tuesday we had one of our girls, a senior, playing in the [All-Aroostook] all-star game in Caribou, so there hasn’t been that break yet for me. I’m sure it’s on the horizon.”
Also on the horizon is that the list of coaches has to be submitted each year, even returnees.
“As long as she’s in the area and can get regular employment [her internship is up at the end of this school year], I would love to have her back,” said Ericson.
After finishing 22-0 with a gold ball in her first year, which is usually the career highlight of most coaches, Trams believes she and her team still will have high goals next season.
“We focus on one game at a time, but looking long-term, obviously these girls are going to want to win another win,” said Trams. “Some people might say, ‘You’ve got three. Isn’t that good enough?’ but for them, it’s ‘Why not? Why can’t we win another one?’”