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Journeys: Alumni coach Q-and-A with … Mead’s Mikayla Martinez

Martinez helped lead Mead volleyball to the playoffs as a player and returned as coach to keep it there

Jeremy Papasso/Staff Photographer
Mead High School Head Coach Mikayla Martinez poses for a portrait before volleyball practice on Monday in Longmont.
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When Mikayla Martinez was a freshman at Mead High School in 2010, the Mavericks volleyball team won just four matches.

A key player throughout several of the most important seasons in the Mead volleyball program’s history, Martinez was instrumental in helping build the program to a 18-7 team by the end of her senior season and the Mavericks are now regulars in the Class 4A postseason.

After graduating from Mead, Martinez went on to play volleyball and earn her associates degree at Laramie County Community College in Cheyenne, Wyoming. She then transferred to the University of Missouri-Kansas City to finish out her volleyball career at the Division-I level and graduate with a bachelor’s degree in health sciences.

Martinez returned to the area where she grew up last year and took over the head coaching job at Mead, leading the Mavericks volleyball squad to a 22-5 record and a state tournament berth in her first season at the helm of her alma mater.

Along with coaching, Martinez works as an EMT in the Emergency Department at Longs Peak Hospital and plans to continue on to PA school.

How did your coaching journey lead you back to your alma mater at Mead? How did the job at Mead come to you and what all led you back there?

“After graduating college and finishing my volleyball career, I moved back home to Colorado and was looking for some way that I could be around volleyball again. I started helping out with open gyms in the summer and eventually decided to apply for the head coach job. It was not planned and it wasn’t something I thought I would jump into after just graduating. However, it ended up being such a blessing and I am so thankful that things worked out like they did.”

Who were some of your main coaching influences in high school, college, etc., and can you talk a bit about how they may have inspired you to become a coach yourself?

“I had the privilege of being trained by numerous different coaches with many different coaching styles. Having such a range of coaching styles allowed me to really determine the kind of coach that I respond best to and eventually it allowed me to figure out the kind of coach that I wanted to be. My high school coach, Rachael Ayers, and my college coach from my first two years, Austin Albers, had the biggest impact on me as a player as well as a coach. They both pushed me and were hard on me and I think that helped make me into the player and coach I turned out to be today.”

Now that you have a full season under your belt, how do you see your future in coaching going? Is coaching at Mead or at the high school level something you see yourself doing long term, or was this even something you thought you’d ever do?

“I see myself staying at MHS and building the program here. I absolutely love this school and the culture that comes with it. I originally didn’t see myself becoming a coach straight out of college. However, I am super thankful that it happened when it did. I think this has allowed me to coach girls from a perspective different than most. Yeah, I don’t have a lot of coaching experience under my belt but I just came out of playing competitive volleyball at the Division-I level, so it allows me to relate to the girls easier because I just went through it.”

During your freshman season in 2010, the Mead Mavericks won just four matches but you and your teammates helped build the program into an 18-7 team by your senior year. Since then, Mead volleyball has been a regular at the state tournament. What do you think have been the biggest keys to the program’s development and emergence?

“The biggest key to the success in MHS athletics in general is the culture that the coaches have built. Every coach at MHS promotes a vision for the athletes that goes far beyond just the successes of a sport. They teach lessons on how to be successful in life through participation in a sport. I am learning from these coaches every day and I think the way that they are guiding me to coach is what has made us successful. We aren’t just all individuals, we are a team, we are a unit, and we are a family. This characteristic is what has grown the program over the years. I think each year we get a little bit stronger in understanding the importance of the game and the height of our potential.”

What was your biggest takeaway from coaching the Mavericks this past season and how did it impact you to be on the coaching side of the team you once played for?

“My biggest takeaway from coaching this year is the importance of mental training. It’s not that common that a team takes five minutes out of their practice time to strengthen their mental health. I think this aspect is what separates runner-ups from the champions. I have coached such a small amount of time in comparison to the time I’ve been the player and being on this side has made me understand some of the things that coaches have told me all along but I just didn’t fully understand what they meant until now. Finally having this click in my mind is now what I want to do for my players, just have it all click sooner. Being on this side of the game while being so fresh out of college allows me to really sit down and figure out the right route to go about teaching certain things to this age of players.”