The Fountain Hills High School girls volleyball team is returning this season under the guidance of a new coach, but for those who have been following the Lady Falcons for the past decade, Tia Kannapel is hardly a new face.
The Lady Falcons’ season begins next Tuesday, Sept. 3, with a home match against Benjamin Franklin High School beginning at 6 p.m. in the high school gym.
Leading up to game day, Kannapel has been focusing on transitioning the program over to her style of coaching.
“The switch has been good,” Kannapel said. “We are definitely a different style of coaching staff. We’re an all-female staff, which is the first time we’ve done that here. So, really, it has just been focused on how I like things done in the gym. We’re really trying to create something that is fluid. It is not just about varsity, it has got to be about where JV is and even where the middle school is, so that they can all feed into each other.”
Kannapel is a graduate of the FHHS class of 2012 who played on the volleyball team all four years of high school, along with playing on the middle school team.
Since high school (and even a little bit during high school) Kannapel has coached a handful of traveling club and school teams including the 2015 JV Fountain Hills squad.
When it comes to coaching a school team, especially a school as small as Fountain Hills, Kannapel likes to focus on not just making a better athlete on the court, but also a better person off it.
“My biggest philosophy that I want to bring here is that it is about the entire athlete; it’s about the whole girl,” Kannapel said. “Most of our kids here play four different sports and there is only a certain number that really want to go on to play in college, so it has got to be about other things. It’s about life lessons that sports teach you, being responsible, being on time, hard work, being a good teammate, all of these intangible things are what I want to teach.”
Kannapel said that the less drastic age gap between her and her players and the fact she is a former Falcon have made getting the team to buy in to her plan a lot easier.
Looking ahead Kannapel is excited for the season to get underway and for the team to try something new in the form of a charity month.
“We are doing a charity month in September in cooperation with Teen Suicide Awareness,” Kannapel said. “We are going to be handing out wristbands that have the number to the hotline and just talking about the issue of teen suicide. We are going to be taking donations throughout the month and they are going to do a presentation before a game. All of the students at FHHS will get a bracelet and all of our opponents, too. So that will be our gift to them. It is something different but I think it’s needed.”