As a kid I was lucky. Lucky to have people in my life who mentored me, people who passed knowledge on to me. People who took the time to be patient with me while I learned. People who were patient with me while I made mistake after mistake after mistake as I grew into the person I am now.
I can do basic mechanics on a vehicle because my dad took the time to show me how they work. I can wire in ceiling fans and light switches and plugs. I can patch drywall and texture and paint. I can do basic plumbing all because my dad took the time to show me how to do all those things as we built our family home. I can cook, and I can sew because my mom showed me how. I had teachers that taught me to read and write. I had coaches that taught me how to train hard and how to take care of my body. I had all these experiences in life where people took the time to help me to learn. Then, one day, it became my turn.
I found myself as the head coach for a girls indoor volleyball team in 2005. It was my first time as a head coach after having been an assistant for a couple of years, and I was pushed into this role by some coaches that I had assisted for. I had no idea what I was getting myself into and I was pretty nervous. I was playing both beach volleyball and indoor volleyball at a pretty high level at the time and knew the game, but I was still nervous. I was 27 years old when I held my first parent meeting. With parents who were twice my age, I felt like no one would trust my knowledge. One of the seemingly skeptical parents asked me, “Why are you coaching?”. I had never really thought about it, but in my nervousness, the truth just came out. “I had a lot of great coaches along the way who helped me to excel in sports, and I just figured it was my turn to give back.”
Fast forward 18 years and here I am, laying in my hotel having just finished 28 days on the beach, ten plus hours a day in the sun and walking through the sand each day. Our club won its 7th National Championship this summer and had even more players (nearing 100) commit to playing the sport in college. I’ve been so fortunate to have the opportunity to continue to pass down all of the knowledge of the sport that I have learned throughout the years. As I was laying here, I was taking some time to reflect on the summer. The wins, the losses, the challenges, the successes. I was just thinking about how proud I was of the kids in our program who have taken the time to take other players under their wing. I was thinking about how, as coaches, we have pushed some of our players over the last year to become leaders. I was thinking about how proud I was of some of our more veteran players for taking the time to support our younger players. I got to hear how one of our juniors took the time to go give two of our middle school players a pep talk before they played in one of their matches at nationals. I was thinking about how proud I was of one of our sophomores who, no sooner had she lost in the semifinals at nationals to take a 3rd place out of 158 teams, than she asked, “are our littles still playing! I want to go support them.” I was proud thinking about one of our juniors who had stepped up to coach some of our younger players when matches got off schedule and they didn’t have a coach. Then, just as this moment popped into my mind, this picture came to me from one of the coaches I work with.
This picture is of one of the players I coach, and her younger sister. You see, after spending so many days cheering on their older sisters, two of the younger sisters decided they would like to try to play in a tournament. Their parents registered them for the AAU National Championships, and they started coming to practice. This moment took me back to that day in the parent meeting when the parent asked me why I was coaching. It was just my time to pass down what I had learned, and in that moment captured so perfectly in time, it was this player’s moment to pass down what she had learned to her younger sister.
For those who don’t play sports and are not interested in them, they can never truly fathom the powerful moments that sports can create. Being the oldest of 3 kids, I think sports helped me and my brother, who is 6 years younger than me, to bond. As I watched these two warming up together at practice, little sis mimicking every move of big sis, I was reminded of moments from 30+ years ago with my own brother.
I have gotten to coach the sport of beach volleyball with young kids all the way up to pros. There have been some incredible wins along the way, and moments of achievement in my career that I worked really hard to get to, but none of them make me as proud as a coach as moments where my players can just be selfless and give back. All of the achievements and accolades melt away when you see kids helping kids. THAT, my friends, is what sports is all about to me, and what continues to drive me to do what I do day after day, year after year. In the sweltering heat of the summer months in Phoenix to the bitter cold nights where I can’t feel my toes. As long as I continue to have athletes who genuinely care for each other, I will always be inspired to give what knowledge i have to them. Thank you to all of you who have inspired me throughout the years and to those who continue to inspire me today! I am honored to call myself your coach.