Athletic Director Jeaney Garcia

sprints into position

Department: Athletics

As a sickly child battling asthma, the young Jeaney Garcia was surprised when her doctor encouraged her to join the track and field team. "You want me to do what?" she thought. Running was the last thing on her mind, but Garcia reluctantly followed her doctor's orders.

Soon after, Garcia arrived for a track meet to learn the "miler" was sick, and the coach asked Garcia to run the mile in her place.

"My coaches were waving me on, and I thought they were telling me to go faster, so I went faster," she said. Garcia didn't know anything about lapping, and didn't realize at the time she was lapping her competitors. "I was running around the track and passing people and telling them, 'Great job; you're doing great!'" she said, demonstrating with a grin how she waved and cheered at the other runners.

About 300 Punahou staff members erupted into laughter and applause as she told the story during the opening-week gathering. Many were catching their first glimpse of Punahou's new athletic director. "My team won the race," she continued. "I set the record, a 5:34-minute mile," she said, pausing. "It stood for 16 years," she concluded to more laughter and applause.

In the audience, President Jim Scott '70 smiled and nodded as if to acknowledge that the staff was getting its first taste of what he has known all along.

Beyond her unbounded energy and drive, "She's highly qualified," said Scott of Garcia, who brings 20 years' experience in athletic administration and coaching to the position. "She'll be great for the ILH, great for the state and great for Punahou, and will complement what Jeff (Meister, associate AD) and Kale (Ane '71, associate AD) do."

The Kansas State graduate comes to Punahou from California, where she spent three years as athletic director for Brentwood School, an independent K - 12 school in Los Angeles. She also served five years as the Los Angeles coordinator for Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA), a national nonprofit organization that emphasizes teaching children life lessons and character education through sports. Garcia has a master's degrees in athletic administration and kinesiology from California State Polytechnic University.

At Punahou, the former Division I cross-country runner and basketball player will oversee a program with 300 coaches for 116 teams in 21 sports. Garcia's vision for a successful athletics program is that "each child leaves our program with the tools to be citizens of the world in a way that they can give back wholeheartedly."

She plans to accomplish that vision in part by integrating PCA into the Punahou athletics program. PCA encourages what Garcia calls a softer, more positive approach to coaching and embraces a formula of five positive recognitions for every criticism, researched by noted relationship psychologist John Gottman and dubbed the "magic ratio." Garcia walks the talk, listening intently to those with whom she speaks and offering encouragement after each interaction. She plans to share her passion, offering PCA workshops this fall to coaches, athletes and parents. "I think it will serve everyone at the very least to think about their involvement with their child," she said.

Garcia, who has two sons, Diego '16 and Santi '19, fondly recalled her own relationship with her parents whom she calls her role models. "My dad never let me feel like sports were out of reach even though there were several options that were not available tome back then," she said, explaining that she wanted to play football but couldn't, so she became a cheerleader for her brother's team instead. Through her father's coaching, she also became the pitcher for her school's first traveling softball team. "My mom liked the fact that I was learning how to work hard and she never treated me differently because I had this commitment to sports," Garcia said, explaining that her mother still expected her to pack her lunch, make her bed, and perform other household chores.

Garcia said there is no question being involved in sports has shaped her life. "It was just such a good fit for me - I expressed myself physically. Sports gives you that foundation for what it means to be part of a team and teaches you how hard you have to work to make things happen for yourself. It builds confidence and self-esteem so you feel like you can do anything."

One of her first initiatives is to start a developmental girls volleyball program for those who don't make the two intermediate teams. Another idea she is exploring is to offer "life sports" such as hiking or badminton to those who may not want to participate in an interscholastic sport but want to be physically fit, thus extending the reach of the athletic program.

Garcia is not intimidated to step in at the helm of the nation's No. 1 athletic program, saying, "The challenge is very intriguing to me. I've always loved a challenge." And those early lessons from Garcia's first mile stay with her, as she admits the championships and No. 1 ranking are not her primary focus.

"My focus is to ensure that I'm supporting everyone and that every child has the best experience possible. Winning ultimately is a byproduct of building character values through sports," she said.


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