MABTON - A coach and teacher in the Sunnyside School District has been selected as the new varsity volleyball coach for Mabton High School.
Crystal Cardenas Garcia, health and fitness teacher at Sierra Vista Middle School, was recently tabbed for the Mabton post. Cardenas Garcia was the volleyball coach at Sierra Vista for five years and for the past two coached the SHS freshman team.
That set the stage for her advancement to Mabton's top volleyball spot.
A 1999 graduate of Granger High School, Cardenas Garcia played volleyball for four years for the Lady Spartans. She was a member of the practice squad while a student at Eastern Washington University.
"It was such a great learning experience. I coached girls who had never touched a volleyball before to girls who had some pretty amazing skills," Cardenas Garcia says of her experience coaching Sunnyside middle schoolers. "Needless to say, there was a lot of improvising on my part and I learned to use different teaching strategies that helped improve individual and team skills. It definitely prepared me to better handle these situations with my future coaching assignments."
As for the transition to coaching high school freshmen - and now a varsity team - she added, "The best part about coaching high school is the higher level of competition and providing skills and challenges necessary for the team to be successful. Being able to have the opportunity to coach at the lower level and moving up to the higher level has given me such a broader view of volleyball in general and will help me in my coaching at Mabton High."
Experience working with younger players should serve Cardenas Garcia well in her first year at the Lady Viking helm.
"We'll be a very young team," she says. "It looks like we'll only have two seniors."
To prepare her youthful squad, Cardenas Garcia plans to take full advantage of WIAA rules that allow high school teams two months of summer practices and camps.
"We have a few things lined up for the summer. Mondays and Wednesdays we are holding open gym at Mabton High School. This is open for all girls in seventh through 12th grade," she said. "I want the girls to have the opportunity to play volleyball as much as they can before the season starts."
Cardenas Garcia also expressed appreciation to the SHS volleyball program for inviting her Mabton players to join the Lady Grizzlies in scrimmages, camps and tourneys.
The Mabton High School volleyball program may be a new experience for Cardenas Garcia, but she is fortunate to be well acquainted with the Lady Viking JV volleyball coach: her brother Chris Cardenas, a 2004 Granger grad.
"He asked if I was going to keep him on staff," Cardenas Garcia smiled. "I said yeah, I guess so."
As for her philosophy in coaching and guiding her players, she says the focus is on building team unity and instilling a commitment and time required to succeed in the sport - while at the same time reminding the squad they are student-athletes.
"They must apply their dedication to school as they are students first, athletes second," Cardenas Garcia says. "Hopefully, in teaching these lessons, I give my players a taste of several skills essential to a successful life after their high school career--working together, supporting each other and placing the welfare of the group ahead of self-interest."
She also hopes to see her players enjoy the journey during the 2012 season.
"I recognize that volleyball is a game, and that students are attracted to the sport primarily because it is fun," Cardenas Garcia says. "I will never lose sight of this fact."