TAMPA – Since the age of 12, she’s been able to stare down nearly any opponent. Keba Phipps could stare down any opponent since she was 12-years-old.
That’s actually pretty easy to do when you are 6-foot-3-inches tall before you are a teenager. By this age, Phipps had enough jumping ability to dominate not only any net in volleyball, but basketball as well, not to mention holding her own in track and field. The standout athlete could have carved out a career in any sport, but she chose volleyball.
Phipps may hold a record for the longest time between Olympic appearances, but she’s not sure. She was on the U.S. Olympic volleyball team in 1988 and came back in 2004. Between that time she spent 15 years playing professional volleyball in Italy.
Today, with her Olympic days behind her, she could likely land a job at any high school in the country – but Phipps has decided to groom volleyball players instead of coaching them at a high level. She coached the Corbett Prep middle school team to an appearance in the state final last year and her nearby volleyball academy is grooming players for the future.
“I love teaching kids that have never played before,” Phipps said. “When you can mold then and see the excitement they have when they are achieving, that means as much to me as it does to them.”
She said that while she was blessed with athletic ability, being taught the proper skills is just as important.
“I’ve always had the footwork and the skills, and now I am trying to teach it,” Phipps said. “When I can get hold of them when they are around 8 or 9, I can tell right away if they have a future in the game. It is such a great noncontact sport, but you can still be aggressive. It’s the perfect game for a girl.”
Phipps started playing volleyball in middle school and dominated from the start. She had no problems spiking into the face of any opponent, and she didn’t mind the intimidation factor.
“The other kids were scared of me,” Phelps said. “I made a few noses bleed and it was my way of saying that they couldn’t stop me. How many other kids were 6-3 in middle school?”
When her career ended, she took to coaching and currently has camps in both Georgia and Florida. When she found out that Corbett had an opening, it turned out to be the perfect fit.
Now her passion, she said, is to simply teach the game.
“I can still play, but molding the minds of young women to be the best they can be is what matters,” she said. “I can still play and put the ball down on anyone, but this is fun and I hope I can stay at Corbett for a long time. This is what makes me happy.’’