AKRON, Ohio (AP) — The basketball bounces on the hardwood court just as firmly as the instructions in the air.
"Box out!" and "Stop the ball on D!" are a few orders Stacie Carter and Danyelle Love shout during a practice recently with their North High School boys basketball players.
Carter and Love are two female coaches in their first year leading an all-boys team.
Carter is the coach and is eight months pregnant. Love is the top assistant for a Vikings team that posted a 1-20 record last year.
There are just three women serving as head coaches for an Ohio high school boys' basketball team this season.
Carter, who is the second woman to coach a boys' basketball team in the Akron Public Schools, said the transition for the boys has gone smoothly.
"We had some instances in the beginning where there were some differences in how they spoke," said Carter, a 1993 Buchtel graduate and former All-City Series player. "There were conversations that they would have around men normally that were not appropriate around me, but we got that taken care of early on and everything has fallen into place.
"The kids have adapted pretty quickly. They are perfectly fine with Danyelle and I coaching them. They kind of take care of me when they think they need to. They will bring me a chair or carry my bag."
North opened its season with six losses but secured its first win by defeating visiting Louisville 69-57 night.
"I'm thrilled for the kids," Carter said. "It is great. It is our first home win in quite a few years. From what I have been told it has been three or four years since we had won at home. It felt really good."
Carter said she starts seniors Damon Bowman and Marcus Robbins and juniors Trarell Balknight and Edward Harris. The fifth starter changes by the game.
"We are getting better chemistry," Robbins said. "We have better discipline, better coaching and better players. Players are listening more. It is not that different than playing for a male coach. The only difference is we have to keep our shirts on. As a boy, sometimes in practice you go shirts and skins. Now it is black (shirts) versus white. It is basically the same. We have to work hard and be dedicated."
North's lone win last season came against Ellet, a 64-63 triumph. The Vikings routinely lost by wide margins. Every loss was by double figures, and several were between 40 and 65 points. Area schools Barberton, Cuyahoga Falls, Buchtel, East, Firestone, Garfield, Jackson, Kenmore, Louisville and Northwest were just a few that throttled North.
This year is a different story with the losses being between seven points and 26 points.
"My expectations were pretty simple, to have day-by-day growth," Carter said. "It was to look at these guys and getting them to understand that regardless of what the scoreboard says, a victory can come in so many other ways. I think we are achieving that. I have been looking at scores from the past couple of years at games, and I am definitely seeing that the disparity is a lot less.
"I am also seeing the way that they are reacting to the losses. They are not completely falling apart and blaming everyone, having fights and getting technical fouls on the court. We have not had a technical foul this year."
Carter, who is scheduled to go into the hospital on Jan. 18, said Robbins' progress has been pleasing.
"He has been known as a hot head, the one who will stop the game and get a technical," Carter said. "He is not doing that anymore. He has made almost a (complete) turnaround from game attitude to school attitude. I was talking to a teacher the other day in the hallway and she said to me: 'Do you understand how much of a turnaround this kid has made the past couple of months?' "
Robbins, who averages 7.9 points per game this season, said he accumulated 22 total technical fouls during his freshman, sophomore and junior seasons, but no ejections.
"I had more technical fouls than Rasheed Wallace," he said laughing. "My attitude is getting better. It is hard. Nobody wants to lose. We have started out losing, but we know we are going to come along and win. Coach makes sure academics come first, then basketball. She has also helped us get better in other areas. We were not a boxing-out or rebounding team, now everyone is learning the basics and defending better."
Bowman leads North in scoring at 25.3 points per game. Balknight (13.28 points), Harris and juniors Brandon Johnson and Duwaan Cheatham-Clark are other key scorers.
"Coach is like a regular coach," Balknight said. "She is just like playing for a guy. We look up to her. You have to have respect and play hard."
Carter, who was formerly Stacie Horton before marrying Jonathan Carter, coached her daughter Shaia Horton as a youth in recreational leagues and in AAU competition. Shaia was an All-City Series selection at Firestone and plays at Jefferson Community College in Missouri.
Carter formerly worked for the Akron Public Schools as an Intervention Specialist but gave that up to coach basketball.
"We interviewed six applicants and picked Stacie," North Athletic Director Carrie Stewart said. "First, she was obviously qualified to coach the kids. She knows the game. Second, she had spent a lot of time in the building with her job and earned the players' trust. Third, she brought the team together during the spring and then for AAU-style tournaments during the summer. She laid the groundwork.
"I was not nervous about hiring her, I was nervous about the reception she and the players would get at some places. We have not gotten any negative reaction at other places to my knowledge."
Joe Howard, the Akron Public Schools Program Manager of Interscholastic Athletics, is impressed with Carter's work as a coach.
"Stacie has been around the game for a lot of years," Howard said. "She knows the game very well and worked with the kids over the summer. There is a marked difference in North this year compared to the past couple of years. I just think Stacie brings a wealth of knowledge, respect and she is not going to take any stuff either."
Carla Chapman Sibley was the first woman to coach a boys' varsity basketball team in the APS.
"I had absolutely no problem with Stacie coaching the boys' team," Howard said. "Carla ... coached the boys' basketball team at Garfield (from 2002 to 2004). They could be purple with green polka dots. I don't care, as long as they do a good job."
Carter is doing just that.
Information from: Akron Beacon Journal, http://www.ohio.com