The fire inside Kayla Mainer still burns, and she plans to keep stoking the flame for as long as her body lets her.
Mainer, one of the finest outside hitters ever to come out of West Valley High School, had a nomadic collegiate volleyball career, with stops at Eastern Washington, North Idaho and Western Oregon.
Now beginning her third season as an assistant coach at Central Valley, Mainer keeps herself in the lineup by playing professionally with Team Evergreen, one of two Washington entries in the fledgling Premier Volleyball League.
“I still have that passion to play the game, and I love playing with the other women on this team,” Mainer said. “Team Evergreen has taken a different tack in setting up this team. Most teams in the PVL use players who are all recent college graduates. Evergreen has more mature players who have more experience. Some of them are mothers and juggle being a mom with playing professional volleyball, but in a lot of ways, that’s a good thing. I love playing with this group, and I’ll keep playing with them for as long as they’ll let me.”
Mainer always set a high standard for herself on the court, and the job of maintaining those standards drives her continuing desire to play.
“I came to the game later than most players,” she said. “The kids coming into the (CV) program now have a lot more high-level experience than I had when I was their age. I didn’t come up in a championship-level high school program and there wasn’t an expectation that, if you want to play varsity volleyball, you have to play club volleyball and gain that kind of high-level experience. You do now.”
When the Bears open practice for the 2013-14 high school season, the team will be welcomed by first-year CV coach Amanda Bailey, who comes to the job after a great deal of success in Florida and Mississippi.
“I’m excited for what she brings,” Mainer said. “We’re getting to know each other, and we’ve already begun working on conditioning and holding open gym. She has a military background and I think she’s going to be more disciplined than what these girls are used to, but I also think that it’s a good thing. She had a lot of success turning around programs that didn’t have a history of playing high-level volleyball, didn’t have a lot of resources or players with club experience for that matter. I’m excited to see what she does with a program that has those things. I think the expectations are going to be high this year.
“Some of the girls have been concerned about it all – ‘this is going to be my third head coach in four years!’ I keep telling them that it’s not that big of a deal. I had three head coaches when I was in high school, too. And I tell them that I played for something like seven different coaches in my playing career.”
Recruited by Eastern Washington out of high school, she spent a year in Cheney before transferring to North Idaho in a calculated move to prepare herself for greater playing time on coach Wade Benson’s varsity.
“North Idaho was running the exact same offense that Eastern was running, so rather than sitting on the bench in Cheney, I felt it would be better for me to start at NIC,” she said. “I had Wade’s complete blessing and support to make that move.”
But after two years at NIC, Benson was on his way to Auburn, where he was made head coach after a season as an assistant.
So instead of returning to Eastern, Mainer followed the Eastern assistant who recruited her to Western Oregon, where she had two stellar seasons as an outside hitter for the Wolves.
“I think the fact that I played the game and that I still play gives me an extra level of credibility with these players and the club players I work with,” Mainer said.
Along with that credibility, she said, Central Valley gets an added boost from having its first woman head coach for volleyball.
“I think that’s very important for this program,” she said. “I don’t mean that as a knock on the men who have coached the program and built it into the successful program that it is right now. But I think there’s something special about women coaching girls teams that you don’t get when a man coaches the team.
“I know I’m looking forward to getting the girls back in the gym and starting to work. This is going to be a good squad and think there’s a very good reason for optimism.”