Taryn Buckley: Spirit of Gainesville nominee


Published: Monday, September 10, 2012 at 5:33 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, September 10, 2012 at 5:33 p.m.

It was such a classic Taryn scene. Sunday afternoon. Getting late. There she was in the Girls Place office/hallway, sitting, pretty exhausted in a not-so-comfortable wooden chair, with her bare feet propped up on another chair in front of her. She looked at me, smiled, and rolled her eyes, “I had to sit a minute,” she said as she exhaled and continued to smile. Her smile always lights up the room. I am just a coach, but I knew she had been at the Girls Place most of the day organizing the tryout session for Spring Volleyball league for the second weekend in a row. Another 120+ girls came to tryouts. From 3rd to 8th grade. Another 120 happy kids coming through her workplace. Another 120 girls who know and look up to Taryn because they know she cares about them, know she wants what’s best for them. And even though some are so young they probably don’t know what the word “advocate” means, they know Taryn, she knows them, and they know they are in a safe place with her. They know Taryn wants them each to be happy, to succeed, to thrive. And the parents, moms and dads, know their child is in a safe, good place with Taryn Buckley. Over 240 girls, just for volleyball, just for one sport, and Taryn is a guardian to all of them.

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Taryn Buckley

Facts

Category: Sportsmanship

About Taryn Buckley

Occupation: Athletic Director at the Girls Place Inc.

Years in Gainesville: 9

Spouse: Dante Buckley

Children: One boy, Xavier

And a big part of the reason Taryn had her feet propped up that day about a year ago was because she was pregnant with her own first child. Even though she has hundreds of girls at the Girls Place, Taryn was expecting one more. One of her own. Amidst all these girls…Taryn was due with a baby boy, to be named Xavier. And for the last year, Xavier has learned about life inside the gym with his mom and dad. He is surrounded by girls of all ages and always within reach of his mom. He is a gym rat in the most adorable terms a rat could ever be described.

His mom, Taryn Buckley, is a remarkable woman with an incredibly warm smile and a huge heart. She is the athletic director at the Girls Place and spends an enormous amount of her time securing a safe haven where girls can thrive. She protects her girls and watches over them. In her gym, girls know they can laugh, be silly, learn, make friends, be themselves, and try new sports. They know they will be encouraged, know they’ll be supported, and they find out athletics can be about having fun.

And beneath Taryn’s red curly hair there is a fire in her. A fire for her kids. A fire for inclusion. A fire for fairness. Taryn has established very fair sportsmanship rules in her gym and those rules apply to players, coaches, and parents. “Players play, coaches coach, and parents cheer” states a banner in her gym. Taryn makes players, parents, and coaches go through training at the beginning of the season so the sportsmanship expectations are clear, and all participants must sign agreements that they understand and will abide by the sportsmanship expectations. Then if you misbehave in her gym, she will run you out. She won’t yell and scream, she won’t lose her temper, but she will not tolerate bad behavior, but especially not from the people kids need to look up to the most, the parents and their coaches. You will not berate players on either team. You will not be ugly. You will not yell at the refs, because most of the refs are kids, Taryn’s kids, girls from 8 to 14, who are assigned refereeing duty. And if you are disrespectful, and Taryn sees it…out you go. I watched a mom step out of the stands and shoulder up to a line judge (about age 11) during a volleyball match after the mom thought the girl had missed a line call. The mother said something like, “I am going to stand next to you so you don’t miss anymore calls like that.” I saw it, heard it, and thought maybe it was the girl’s mother trying to protect her from other parents and their remarks, but Taryn knew the girl (of course) and knew the mom was not the little girl’s mom. Taryn marched across the middle of the court, halting the game and telling the mom, “You are going to have to leave because you are not going to behave like this in here!” or something along those lines, and that was that. Taryn hugged the little line judge and whispered in her ear. I saw the girl smile. She seemed to be OK, after being bullied by an adult. And even if the little line judge didn’t know the word yet, she knew she had an advocate, a fighter, in her corner. It’s nice when kids have superheroes that are real people. To me, that is what Taryn is…. a superhero.

As athletic director, Taryn has helped build programs at the Girls Place. She has been at the Girls Place since June, 2008 and works tirelessly. She implements new ideas. She monitors progress. She grows the programs to allow the most girls possible to participate. Her volleyball program has expanded from a Fall season to Spring and Fall seasons. The number of girls that tryout for volleyball increases every season. And Taryn smiles all the time. Even when exhausted. Even when everything doesn’t go right. Even now sometimes with a 1-year-old baby boy sound asleep in her front papoose. She smiles and she is a true advocate for girls. She makes more than a difference in these girls’ days, she makes a difference in their lives. Through her selfless and tireless efforts, she has helped create a tremendously good and safe place for girls to thrive at the Girls Place in Gainesville.

Submitted by Joshua Hellstrom

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