New coach at the helm of A.L. girls basketball

Published 9:00 pm Thursday, December 23, 2021

By Alex Guerrero

If you’ve been to an Albert Lea varsity girls basketball game, you’ve seen the new face on the sideline, RJ Polley.

Polley, who graduated from Albert Lea High School, has been playing the game his whole life.

“Growing up, basketball was always my favorite sport,” he said.

Polley, who is from Kentucky where the sport reigns supreme, grew up in a University of Kentucky family.

“I’ve been following them since I was a little kid, and so I always wanted to play for Tubby Smith when he was the coach there,” he said. “I’ve always been drawn to it.”

Despite being a high school captain for his basketball team, Polley attended the University of South Dakota on a football scholarship. After coaching at younger levels and gaining experience, he eagerly applied for the position as girls’ coach when it became open earlier this year.

“[The team and I are] kind of taking it week by week here as we get into our conference schedule,” he said.

He hopes that approach will take the team, one he described as very talented, athletic and adaptable, to the playoffs.

“The goal is to go to state and see how far we can go,” he said. “I know we’re in a very tough section, a very tough conference… We’re talented enough to beat anyone we play.”

Because of his experiences, nothing has surprised him so far — so far being the operative phrase.

“I’m sure there will be stuff that pops up later in the year, but to this point it’s been good,” he said. “It’s been a good transition, and we have a good group of seniors that are great leaders and fantastic to work with.”

During his short time on the sidelines, Polley admitted to learning to trust assistant coaches.

“[Karol Hansen’s] got tons of coaching experience,” he said. “She was the coach here when I was in high school.” 

Time management was also important for him.

Besides coaching basketball, Polley serves as a counselor at the high school. Prior to taking over as coach at the high school, Polley served as an assistant basketball coach at Woodbury High School.