Updated: Apr 6, 2020
It's not every day that a coach gets to be the very first coach of a sport at a high school. So many sports have been around for so long that it just doesn't happen often. Well, I was fortunate enough to get to do it. In 2015 I had started teaching Spanish at Flagstaff High School. Ryan and I had started RPM Sand two years before and were working with both athletes in Phoenix, and in Flagstaff. Coconino High School had started a beach volleyball program at their school in 2014. It was being run by two of the moms of two of the players we worked with at RPM (Both would go on to play Division 1).
One day my principal approached me and asked me if I would like the opportunity to coach beach volleyball at Flag High and I jumped at the chance. How could I pass it up? You see, Flagstaff High School is also my alma mater. It meant a lot to me to get the chance to leave a mark on my school, and my community. The only problem was, I had the coaching part down, but there was no infrastructure. There was no booster club, there was no facility to train in or play in, there was nothing! I would have to build it all. As anyone knows, if you want to build something that lasts, you have to take the time to do it right. I was determined to do just that.
With the help of some pretty incredible moms who had been boosters for the indoor program at the school, we got the booster club up and running. We had no home court, so we had to play all away games. The season conflicted with indoor club season so I had to be flexible with who could come to practice and when and who could travel to matches, and when. I would bring the best players I had available for each match, and we would compete. The girls really seemed to love it! It was a pretty cool opportunity for them to get to be the first players at their school to play the sport too. I just wanted to give all of the girls an opportunity to represent their school. I know that can be a big part of social life in high school.
I would wake up at 5:30 in the morning on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday to go to the bus barn and pick up the mini bus that I would drive the team to for away games. I would drive it to the school and leave my car there. I would teach my morning classes, and the team and I would leave after lunch to go to the games. Me and 10 girls on a bus. Oh those were some adventures. They would sing and dance, and just seemed to really enjoy doing their thing together. We would stop for food on the way down in Anthem, then head to the school we were playing at. We played in parks all the way from Peoria to Mesa to Buckeye. Then, we would all load up in the bus, grab dinner, and hit the road home. Most nights we would get back around 11:00. I would then wait for all of the girls parents to come pick them up (sometimes for an hour or more) and then drive the bus back out to the bus barn, fill it up with gas, then get in my car and head home. Then the alarm would inevitably go off again the next day and i would be right back at it again.
The inaugural class for Flagstaff High School beach volleyball didn't have any seniors, but the next class did. The first seniors to graduate from the program were Ali Turner, Kayla Morales, Lauren Ulibarri, and Haley Turner. Haley went on to play Division 1 beach volleyball at Austin Peay University in Tennessee. Those four have the honor of being the first to do it. They were an incredible group of seniors and I couldn't have chosen four better people to have that honor. They started the program off with great leadership, heart, talent, and a whole lot of comedy!
The picture below is after one of our matches in Scottsdale, and the video is from the banquet after our second season when the first seniors graduated. They made me cry.
Below is an article from the local news paper about getting the program off and running
If you enjoyed this post, give it a like. Feel free to check out my other posts while you are here too! There are some good insights on a variety of beach volleyball related topics along with products I genuinely recommend!