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Volleyball coach rallying to beat cancer
Rebecca Lewis teaches life, game skills
Ages: 8 to 17
Day: Tuesday and/or Thursday
Time: 3:30 to 5:30 p.m.
Fees: $35 a month one day a week; $70 a month two days a week
Begins: First Tuesday or Thursday each month
Duration: Four weeks
Location: Rick Novack Community Center, 13558 Palm St.
Participants must pre-register. For more information, call (760) 244-1007 or visit www.HesperiaParks.com.
Volleyball coach Rebecca Lewis encourages players and corrects stances, straightens bent arms and moves fingers to better grip a ball, amidst thuds of volleyballs and players shouting, “I want it!”
Lewis said one must coach all aspects of volleyball: offense, defense, passing, setting, hitting and spiking. She and her husband of 45 years, Michael Lewis, have been coaching together for more than 20 years.
Once beginners themselves, Rebecca and Michael Lewis learned the ins and outs when their daughter, Tina Lewis, wanted to play volleyball but no one in the High Desert offered training.
They decided to open a gym and start coaching. After that, they said God’s blessings kept coming. The location, sports court, lighting and weights all came easily, proving to the Lewises that they were headed in the direction God wanted them.
“God has a plan and we’re just being obedient servants and we feel his plan for our lives,” Rebecca Lewis said.
And then the plan took a detour.
In August 2012, Rebecca Lewis was diagnosed with stage 4 ovarian cancer. Chemotherapy treatments made her too ill to coach for a few months.
“It was a part of life — the real deal,” said Rebecca Lewis. She said she’s honest about her sickness with her students, letting them learn how to handle it their own way.
The outpouring of response from people surrounding the Lewis family, including players they haven’t talked to in years, along with the support of Hesperia Community Church is what Michael Lewis calls incredible.
“It’s enlightening to see how she has affected people, not even knowing or trying, doing what she does best,” he said.
Rebecca Lewis’ use of positive reinforcement, which gives her students confidence, is one great aspect of her style, according to Brandon McAnulty, a recreation supervisor at Hesperia Recreation and Park District.
Robyn Tominaga said her son, Tanner, 16, surpassed the skills Rebecca taught him. Now he helps her coach.
But for Rebecca Lewis, coaching is not just about the sport.
“Don’t just coach volleyball, coach the entire being,” Lewis, who coaches at Hesperia’s Rick Novack Community Center, said last week. She uses her Christian values to teach kids morals and how to be responsible.
Tanner Tominaga said he learned respect for his coach and elders, a quality that helps him coach.
Substitute coach Stephanie Espey used to be shy before she started volleyball 11 years ago.
“I wouldn’t be anywhere close to where I am without her,” Epsey said.
Many of their players have gone on to coach at universities and junior colleges. One of their players, Caitlin Ledoux, plays professional volleyball.
“We love all the kids as if they’re our own,” said Rebecca Lewis.
Laci Olivas, 8, and her twin sister, Brooke, along with 11-year-old Taylor Olivas, now advanced players, didn’t know how to play volleyball before Rebecca’s coaching, mom Coberly Olivas said.
“Do not give up — keep trying,” Laci Olivas said.
And for Rebecca Lewis, she continues to fight the odds.
“The game of volleyball can be used as a metaphor for Rebecca’s ordeal: Right now, she’s rallying back after digging that spike that cancer threw at her, and hopefully we’re setting her up for the kill,” said McAnulty.
“We want to thank everybody for their love and continued prayers,” Rebecca Lewis said, “because it’s working.”