Kim Lester, the current head women's beach volleyball coach and assistant on the women's volleyball team was recently honored by the American Volleyball Coaches Association for her 300th win at the junior college level.
Coach Lester earned her bachelor's degree in kinesiology from San Diego State University while playing volleyball from 1989 – 1994. She also holds a master's degree in education with an emphasis in physical education from Azusa Pacific University.
Lester has earned herself a reputation as someone who believes in the foundation of hard work in and out of the classroom.
"She helped me accomplish my goal of playing Division I volleyball. Without her guidance, I would not be where I am today," states Mesa women's volleyball coach Bobbie Jo Stall. "After my playing days came to an end, and fast forward ten years later, I visited Kim at Mesa College. One thing led to another and I became an assistant coach, which then turned into now being the head coach of the program she guided for many years. There have been many wonderful people on my journey, but I am who I am today because of Kim."
We had the opportunity to sit down with Kim for a Q&A session. We asked her about her storied coaching career as well as what keeps her coming back.
You have been involved with volleyball for many years. What do you love about coaching and what makes you keep coming back?
I've always loved sports. I love the competition and working with your teammates to accomplish one goal. I was fortunate enough to play at a high level at San Diego State and after my college career, I was given the opportunity to be an assistant coach.
All student-athletes at the collegiate level go through a phase of 'what's next' after their last game. We go through an identity crisis because it's been such a big part of our life, and when it's done, you look for what's next. From the very first day I became a coach, I knew this is what I wanted to do.
Do you have a specific season, or match, that you will always remember?
There are so many of them, but I would probably say our season in 2004. We had the highest program finish at 22-5. We were seeded #3 in the south of a double elimination tournament.
We won our first match vs. the #2 seed North Taft. On the second day, we lost to the #1 seed Golden West College, and we were bumped into the losers' bracket. We followed with a win against the #4 seed Cypress College. After that victory, on the third day we beat Taft again followed by defeating the #1 north seed San Joaquin Delta College in five-sets. The win against Delta is probably the most significant win of the program to date.
After defeating San Joaquin Delta College, we advanced to the state championship match against Golden West College for the second-time. Due to scheduling, this was our third match of the day, our team was gassed. We battled tough but lost in three-sets.
I will always remember that team and what we had accomplished.
You have coached for many years. What's one advice you can give to a young coach just starting out?
There is no secret to coaching. If you love what you do, everything will fall into place. If I were to give one piece of advice, just be yourself.
You have been a fixture in the indoor volleyball world for so long. You have now transitioned into beach volleyball. Do you enjoy one surface over the other? Do you recommend players trying both?
I have been a part of indoor volleyball for 23 years, it has been my life and I do miss the strategy, the fast pace, and power of the game.
However, beach volleyball has definitely sparked my passion for this game!
I love the aspect of coaching five different teams with different abilities and strategies. I highly suggest that indoor players give beach volleyball a try. It is one of the best training methods and improves ball control and helps hitters become more dynamic. In addition to the skillsets, the conditioning that you need on sand will increase your quickness and jumping. You will become a better overall volleyball player.
Have you ever had any desire to coach at the Division I level? Why?
I have been lucky to be a part of many student-athletes' lives. I have the same goal for anyone who I have ever coached, and that is for them to succeed in life.
I want all my players to transfer to the next level, whether that's academically or athletically. Furthermore, I want them to have the best experience of their lives while they are with me, but most important of all, I hope that when they leave, they become better human beings.
I've had the opportunity to coach at three different Division I programs. I love the competition but being at the junior college is where I want to be. At the Division I level, the focus is on winning for the school. Here at Mesa College, our focus is on our student-athletes.
I love being given the ability to provide opportunities for high school students who didn't get a shot out of high school. There are many pressures that student-athletes face. Most of the time grow to hate the sport that can open so many doors for them in the future. Having a little bit of influence for them to continue playing is something I hold dear. When it's all said and done, everything I do is for their betterment.