Former coach expands her serve

Volleyball: Anna Gibbs' desire to help the growing Starlings youth volleyball club has led the former Western coach to a national director's position in San Diego

January 10, 1999|By Katherine Dunn | Katherine Dunn,SUN STAFF

When Western volleyball coach Anna Gibbs began working to bring a nest of Starlings Volleyball Clubs, USA to Baltimore two years ago, she never dreamed she was opening a new career path.

Her only goal was that of the Starlings organization: bringing low-cost club volleyball to inner-city girls.

As she did that, however, Gibbs launched herself on a course that has taken her to San Diego as the rapidly growing, nationwide Starlings' director of development.

When she was first offered the job in July, Gibbs said she felt she could not leave Baltimore and the girls that she has mentored on and off the court. But by September, she decided that by taking the job she would still be helping the girls she had to leave behind.

"It's a great opportunity for me personally, and it's a great opportunity to make something grow that I really, really believe in," said Gibbs, who is settling into her new office this week. "The reason I took the job was because I thought I'd be able to further the club, thus furthering opportunities for my kids in Baltimore."

Gibbs, 27, is the first full-time employee of the Starlings organization, which was founded in 1995 by former national-team player Byron Shewman and former Olympian Kim Oden.

She and part-time executive director Shewman will have their hands full. The Starlings have 25 clubs in cities nationwide and on Indian reservations in Arizona, but in the next two years, they plan to triple the number.

"I do a little bit of everything," said Gibbs, "although I'm primarily responsible for grant writing and working to develop projects. I'm also working on our mentor program and expansion."

Her new job is an extension of Gibbs' work locally with the Starlings through her job with the Parks and People Foundation (of Baltimore City Recreation and Parks).

Gibbs said the most rewarding thing about bringing the Starlings to Baltimore was bringing together girls from all over the city to play club ball.

Gibbs has an extensive volleyball background -- playing on scholarship at UMBC after starring at high school powerhouse Northern-Calvert.

But volleyball knowledge was not the most important thing Gibbs brought to Western and the Starlings, said former Western volleyball coach Shirley Williams.

"She has that young energy and enthusiasm," said Williams "That's the main thing. It's not the program. It's the kids. A lot of people get all involved in the process and forget what the whole thing is about, but from the moment Anna got involved with the kids, you could tell she saw the need there."

Gibbs left a lasting impression on the Western players.

"I cried when she said she was going, but I've come to realize she has the right to do a job she enjoys," said Western junior Taneisha Osborne. "I was kind of being selfish. Now, she can help other girls and everyone has a chance to meet someone who was special to me."

Joy Gorham, also a Western junior, said she now has a "very high" phone bill. She and the other Doves are determined to stay in touch with Gibbs, who gets a load of e-mail from Baltimore.

"She was always there to listen," said Gorham. "She was like a cool mother, one of those mothers who can be a friend and a mother. She taught us lessons we could take on and off the court."

Pub Date: 1/10/99

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