ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The Lakewood High School football is riding a 26-game regular-season winning streak. The Spartans hope that continues with a new face on the coaching staff.
“Let’s go, let’s go. Move your feet! Move your feet, Ashton.”
Melia Garcia shouts as her offensive line hold their ground in a drill against the defensive line.
“She is a good coach,” Lakewood right tackle Justin Harper said. “She’s very helpful. Helps us with the plays. When we mess up she helps us get better.”
“Coach Garcia is a little spark plug,” head coach Cory Moore said.
Garcia is a first-year offensive line coach for the Spartans.
“I would say they are one of the most under-appreciated sections in football,” Garcia told ABC Action News sports anchor Kyle Burger. “We always hear about the quarterback and wide receivers. The defense did such a good job. But we never focus on the offensive line. Nothing would really happen offensively without them. They definitely needed some work. That’s where I decided to go and help us out.”
Garcia is in her second year as an advanced placement and honors world history teacher. She got tired of watching the games from the bleachers and decided to find a way on the field.
That’s when she approached Moore.
“They were teaching right across the hallway from me,” Garcia said. “I used to joke to them about football, what they were doing, trying to give little hints. ‘Oh you really like football?’”
Garcia grew up in a family of football fans. She’s coached basketball and cheerleading, but never football.
“She is able to see and hear it one time and then she has it,” Moore said. “She came in initially and watched and listened. She does what great teachers do. She adapts. She gets information and she puts it in a method where the guys actually obtain it. Awesome.”
Her involvement during practice is not just drawing X’s and O’s on the locker room whiteboard. She’s intense on the field, motivating the team and even demonstrating the drills.
“Oh, I am in the grind, for sure,” Garcia said. “We call our o-line ‘the dogs.’ I am right there. Whether it is using the bags with them, getting down in stances, stance, and starts, whatever it is I am right there with them 100 percent. I am standing on the different bags they are pushing around.”
That’s how she quickly gained the respect from these big-bodied blockers.
“You don’t see a female coach out there every day,” Lakewood lineman Taveon Wheeler said. “She’s out here grinding with us, getting us better, helping us work is a good impression.”
“I don’t think it was until I really hit the field with them, started using those bags, even giving them a little shove here and there doing what I am supposed to do as a coach,” Garcia said. “They are like ‘she is for real and she knows more than we ever would think and most of us.’”
“She knows her stuff,” Moore said. “She knows her craft and she is very detailed. All she can do is make us better. We are really happy she is a part of our program.”