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Former standout athletes, Garcia sisters become coaches for the Kings
During a volleyball open gym earlier this month, Kofa head coach Brittany Garcia sat on the floor, resting up against a pole, while 12 players ran sprints past her.
Not being the one going through the conditioning was another — albeit, positive — reminder that her playing days are over. But the 23-year-old and her 25-year-old sister, Mary Kaye, who both graduated from Kofa, have continued to have an impact on Kings' athletics.
Brittany is the varsity volleyball and JV girls basketball coach while Mary Kaye is the JV volleyball and freshman girls basketball coach. Their players have been curious, wondering what kind of athletes the sisters were in their playing days at Kofa.
“One of the girls actually Googled me,” Brittany said with a laugh.
And the research will bring up that Brittany was a two-time Yuma Sun/Yuma Rotary Volleyball Player of the Year, two-time Region MVP and played two years for Yavapai College and Mary Kaye was a Girls Basketball Player of the Year and played two years at Arizona Western.
Their athletic prowess shouldn't be surprising since their mother, Mary, played volleyball at Pima Community College and Northern Arizona University and their father, Frank, was an UPI All-Pro punter for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1983.
“(The players) always bring it up. ‘We saw you were player of the year,'” Mary Kaye said. “It's good for them see our accomplishments because they want to live up to them. They want to surpass them.”
Now the Garcias' sneakers have been traded in for clipboards. In 2009, Brittany took the JV girls basketball job. A year later she was named the varsity volleyball coach, and Mary Kaye took her own coaching duties.
In the first volleyball match she ever coached — trying her best to hide her nervousness — Brittany's varsity squad rode a hot bus to El Centro, where they lost to Central in four games. Five days later, Kofa lost at Gila Ridge to start the season — and her career — with an 0-2 record. Kofa responded by winning 14 of their next 15 matches to win the region and advance to the state tournament.
“She's great at what she does. We've been very successful both years she's been coaching,” Mary Kaye said. Last season, the Kings finished 14-4 and once again advanced to the state tournament.
Being so closely removed from their playing days, they get the itch to play. Considering their skills, they tend to kill two birds with one stone by playing in practice against the starters.
“The majority of our coaching is playing with them — playing volleyball, playing basketball. And it's great because it makes the girls competitive because all they want to do is beat their coaches,” Mary Kaye said.
Brittany adds that watching the girls play makes her think how much she misses her own playing days. “But coaching really is the next best thing and I've gotten to the point where I realize that playing isn't in my future, so I might as well pass on my knowledge to the kids.”
After the 2011 volleyball season, Kofa outside hitter Miranda Brookhart, who was the Yuma Sun/Yuma Rotary Player of the Year, called Brittany “the best thing to happen to Kofa volleyball.”
“When I get all these compliments from the players, it makes me feel better as a person. It makes it feel like I'm doing it for them. It makes me feel good that they see how much work I'm putting into this,” Brittany said. “I don't want the girls to think that I'm coming in just for a paycheck or to pass the time. I want to build this program.”
Thus far, with two state tournament appearances in two years under her belt, she is off to a good start. With her sister at her side, Brittany hopes to expand her influence beyond Kofa — perhaps by starting a club team here in Yuma.
“I want to start making volleyball a lot bigger here.”
Jesse Severson can be reached at email@example.com or at 539-6881. Find him at facebook.com/YSJesseSeverson