The Pepper Bough

Volleyball coach Vasquez surveys life, volleyball, and chicken nuggets

Adriana Flores, Reporter

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Varsity Volleyball Coach Sarah Vasquez sighs as she recalls the sporting journey that brought her from just another student at Colton High back in the day to her current position with the school. Her journey led her from gymnastics to basketball to finally finding volleyball. “I was not flexible in gymnastics at all, and in basketball I was scared of one on one,” she remembers, as she watches her team practice on the Hubbs gymnasium floor.

Dressed in volleyball gear, the coach is an ever moving, ever changing dynamo who never seems to have an off switch. She’ll regale you on the finer points of team leadership theory but then opine on the snack sitting in front of her: “Don’t you ever get sad when you eat the last chicken nugget?”

Vasquez is a local product. “I grew up in Colton, born and raised,” Vasquez notes, “my home is South Colton.” She scrunches her face up, deep in thought, and ruminates on what brought her to this place in her life.

“Oh God, I have very few friends because I trust no one but, John and Michelle- they’re my best friends. John- well he was, I don’t talk to him…” her voice trails off for a moment as she readjusts to put her chin in the palm of her hand as to say, ‘I need a moment.’

She gathers her composure and continues. It’s obvious volleyball is not all that’s on the mind of this coach. Life matters as well, and she has full life off the court. “I don’t talk to him because of life choices he has made,” Vasquez states and few seconds later. “ Michelle and I,  we’ve been best friends since junior year here,” looking down slightly as she smiles, “she’s like my sister I never had.”

Continuing about her childhood, she relates, eyes growing wide, “I am da baaabbyyy and I have one brother. My scariest moment has to be when I was little. My brother almost DIED AND I DIDN’T EVEN KNOW IT! His appendix burst and he had to be taken to the hospital,” she remembers,  pausing for a moment in the narrative to dust off the salt from her hands. “Don’t get me wrong; I was in the waiting room with grandma, but, you know grandmas,” she says. “They make everything feel okay, so I was in the waiting room playing, while my mom is in the back with my brother.”

The memories come quickly, turning Vasquez sentimental, the wistful look in her eyes and her silence punctuated by the squeaks of tennis shoes on the gym floor and shouts from the girls as her team practices spikes. Looking into the future, her eyes water, “Ugh. I’m afraid of my mom dying,” she reveals out of the blue, trying to laugh off the tears. “My mom can’t die, she’s da mob. I call her that because I can’t do anything without her, you know, like moms are monsters. They can do anything, so I call her da mob.”

Suddenly shifting gears, her attention turns to the squad on the court, dutifully drilling. She blurts out to the team, “Some of you are NOT ATHLETIC AT ALL!” making a face to go with her comment. The girls on the court are used to her seemingly harsh and sarcastic comments; they realize it’s just her style, are are determined to do better. Besides, most of her criticism, if it can be called that, is given with a twinkle in her eye. Besides the other many things that can describe her personality, “definitely loyal and caring,” is how she describes herself, but she adds this caveat: “they’ve just got to understand me. I do relays for life, I volunteer, raise money for cancer and I also teach young children from three to five years old.”

Vasquez’s nurturing years were strongly affected by a major influence: her Godfather. After 30 years of being around her “Nino” (as Vasquez’s refers to him), her “little girl phase” still comes to her when it comes down to remembering him and his impact on her love of volleyball. “My Nino has the biggest impact in my life because I’m his ffaaavvvorite! He taught me volleyball and now volleyball is my life,” she says proudly, raising her hands as if to say, ‘look at my surroundings.

Practice time over, she calls the whole team in to huddle up near the sidelines.  “Break on three,” she yells, leaving varsity captains Monica Rodriguez and Dezirae Corona to lead the cheer, “COLTON ON THREE …READY, ONE, TWO, THREE,” as everyone joins them on three, “COLTON!”

Vasquez is quite content being the coach of her alma mater.  “It was more so of a Colton High School volleyball coach because, if I were at another school, I don’t think I would have chosen it. Because when I played here it wasn’t a terrible team, but I want to make it more. I want to be able to be empowering with young women- to be strong, independent, and athletic,” Vasquez jokes, directing her voice to the departing team, “because you guys NEED TO BE ATHLETIC!”

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Volleyball coach Vasquez surveys life, volleyball, and chicken nuggets