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Mission Veterans Lady Patriots’ head volleyball coach Diana Lerma has made her mark as the premier volleyball coach in the Rio Grande Valley. The volleyball program that she has built at Veterans Memorial High School is not only second to none in the Valley, but it is also among the best in the state. The number of trophies and golden district championship volleyballs that her teams have earned over her tenure at VMHS have as much to do with her coaching skills, leadership abilities and commitment to winning as they have to do with the on court skills of her players.
Saying that volleyball is a big part of Lerma’s life would be an understatement. When you consider the fact that playing volleyball resulted in college scholarships for herself, her three sisters and her three daughters, and that she and two of her sisters went on to careers as volleyball coaches, it’s easy to see why.
What has made her so successful as a coach? Her aforementioned coaching skills, leadership abilities and commitment to winning have played a big part of course. However, her abilities to inspire and motivate her players to excel on the volleyball court, as well as in life, are just as big a part of her success as anything else.
So what is Lerma doing now that the COVID-19 pandemic, and the resulting shut down of all UIL sports competitions and practices, has resulted in her not being able to coach? She has taken it upon herself to inspire and motivate others to keep the faith and not lose hope through daily text messages.
“I wanted to do something to begin a routine, and I knew that everybody was going through something different as a result of this virus, so I started sending my friends a text message every morning to let them know I was thinking about them,” Lerma said. “It began as little motivational marvelous Monday and terrific Tuesday message to say, “Hello friends,” but I just kept going on and on with that.”
As one of the recipients of Lerma’s inspirational and/or motivational daily texts, I received my first one on March 24. It was kind of out of the blue, but I appreciated the sentiment and the fact that she took the time to text me. Much to my surprise, I received another one the following day and yet another the day after that; but then on the fourth day, nothing. Thinking that maybe her first three texts were all I would receive, I was pleasantly surprised when they started up again the very next day and I have received one each and every morning since then.
“There was one day that I did not send out a text and I started hearing from my friends in Eagle Pass and from Houston wanting to know where their quote of the day was,” Lerma said. “I said to myself, “Oh, some are actually reading them,” so I started sending them out the very next day and I have not missed a day since.”
Lerma is not sure exactly how many people are on her daily text list, but she’s sure that it’s over 120. The fact that she sends each one out as an individual text, and not as a group text to everybody at once, could be attributed to her knowing how annoying group texts can be when people reply to all. Or it could simply be a matter of her not being the most tech savvy person in the world and as a result not being too sure how to send group texts.
“I’m like a dinosaur,” Lerma said laughingly. “I just got into Facebook last week so I’m going to learn how to do that. I’ve been texting all my health students, my athletes and all my friends and family. I just go through my phone’s contact list and send each person my text for the day. I go one by one by one. In a way I’m entertaining myself by doing this and I feel good when I’m done as I go one by one.”
When asked if she’s thought about how long she will keep sending out these texts, Lerma said, “It’s something that brings joy to my day and I’m pretty sure that it puts a smile on the faces of the people that are receiving them. I’ve received responses from people that are not having a good day letting me know how much they appreciate my texts, so as far as I’m concerned, I’m going to continue doing it.”
Some of Lerma’s texts such as her April 4 message of “Don’t take today for granted because tomorrow is not promised,” are inspirational. Others such as her April 17 message of, “With prayer all things are possible,” are scriptural. And others, such as her April 18 text of, “Alexa, what’s the weather going to be this weekend? Don’t worry about it, you aren’t going anywhere.” are humorous.
Chances are that it’s just a matter of time until the schools re-open and Lerma gets back to teaching and coaching. And chances are that once that happens, I will stop hearing my cell phone’s text tone, with my daily inspirational, motivational or humorous message from Coach Lerma, go off each and every morning. After all, somebody as busy and as committed to her students, to her team and to winning as Lerma is cannot continue sending out over 120 individual texts a day once she returns to work. Or maybe she can. After all, she did send me, and well over a hundred others, the following message on May 4, “…for with God, all things are possible.” Knowing Coach Lerma the way I do, I’m pretty sure these are words she lives by.