TAMPA, Fla. – Ali Markun is determined. Despite her diminutive size, the long-time girls’ volleyball coach is laser-focused and dogged to get more boys into the sport she has coached hundreds of girls at over the last twenty years.
Locally, Markun has coached high school varsity at Mitchell High School in Pasco and the J.V. team at Plant in Hillsborough. Prior to moving to Florida, she was the head coach at Des Moines East High School which is the largest public high school in the state of Iowa.
She is also a well-known coach at the competitive club level where her aggressive coaching has led to countless tournament victories. Next year she will be the head coach at Blake High School in Tampa where she hopes to develop a young team into a competitive program.
Over the years, “Coach Ali,” as she is affectionately known by her players, has helped develop girls into better athletes and better young women by focusing on fundamentals, conditioning, and personal development. She requires her club players to read athletic motivational books and write book reports on what they read.
“The girls roll their eyes at first when I ask them to read a book, but then they get into it and we have great discussions about what they have learned from other successful people,” Markun said between drills during a recent practice.
After coaching at the club level for other teams for several years, last year Coach Ali went out on her own and started her own club, South Tampa Rush, named after her son, Rush.
The club’s practices with girls have quickly filled up thanks to Markun’s reputation among South Tampa volleyball enthusiasts, but the boys’ effort has been a little slow.
“For a lot of boys, this is an educational process. We must teach them this is a fun sport, and it is not a girl’s only game. This is a highly competitive, fast game requiring endurance, good fundamentals, and a strong game sense,” she said.
Coach Ali says she is committed to building up the boys’ program admitting her motivation is in part for the club’s namesake, her son Rush. She laments that when he went to try out for the new boys’ volleyball team at his middle school last year, he was the only boy there. At her urging, he went on to serve as the manager for the school’s girls’ team and attended every game.
“There is no reason boys can’t play competitive volleyball. I enjoy helping the development of young athletes, whether they are boys or girls. We will continue to do just that here at South Tampa Rush Volleyball Club,” she said.
Try-outs for the team will be held later this summer. In the meantime, Coach Ali holds sex-segregated clinics, and private lessons four days a week at the Prep in South Tampa located behind the Jan Platt Regional Library.
For more information visit: www.SouthTampaRush.com or search for South Tampa Rush on Facebook.
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