Blue Wave siblings shine on court, diamond
Published: Tuesday, August 27, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, August 26, 2013 at 5:47 p.m.
Whether he is watching from the stands or supervising in the dugout, P.K. Yonge baseball coach Brian Simmons is getting used to fielding the same question about his two youngest children.
Since they were in middle school, the Blue Wave's sibling duo of 17-year-old Kayla Simmons and Fletcher Simmons, 16, have piqued opponents' curiosity as seemingly permanent fixtures on their school's varsity volleyball and baseball teams, respectively.
“Coaches are saying that to us already,” said Simmons, referring also to his wife, Kiersten. “Every time they step on the field, it's like, 'Is this kid still here?'”
The answer, at least for one more year, is yes.
A three-time all-area setter, Kayla is her team's lone returning senior this fall, while Fletcher has compiled first-team all-area accolades as both a catcher and pitcher heading into his junior campaign.
Aside from individual honors, the two siblings also led each of their teams to a Class 3A regional semifinal appearance last season, and as a result, helped P.K. Yonge claim its 10th straight FHSAA All-Sports Trophy in May for both girls and boys athletics.
“For kids like this, it's a huge advantage, because they've both had varsity experience in the seventh grade against kids six or seven years older than them,” Brian Simmons said. “When you can push an athlete to a higher level, the earlier you can do that the better — the farther they're going to get.”
From an early age, both Kayla and Fletcher watched as their older brother, Kai, set an example as a standout baseball player. Last fall, the 2010 P.K. Yonge graduate earned a baseball scholarship to Delgado Community College in Louisiana, a feat his younger siblings are hoping to replicate.
Kayla, who was named to USA Volleyball's Junior A-1 High Performance roster this summer, has averaged nearly 800 assists and 230 digs per season since her freshman year, leading to scholarship offers from Charleston Southern, Marshall, Rollins College, University of Tampa and Southern Illinois.
Fletcher, meanwhile, is anticipating heavy Division-I interest after batting over .400 as a left-handed hitter in three straight seasons for the Blue Wave. Though catcher is his natural position, Simmons dazzled in his switch to pitcher this year with an area-low 0.22 ERA and 91 strikeouts.
“We're all siblings and Kai's our older brother, so you always want to one-up your siblings,” Fletcher Simmons said. “We're just a competitive family. But it makes it easier for us, because he blazed the trail. He showed us what to do.”
Before he began coaching his sons' youth teams, Brian Simmons had no intention of stepping back onto the baseball diamond after playing at Santa Fe College, University of North Florida and in semi-pro leagues.
Once he saw both Kai and Fletcher excelling in the sport, Simmons found it hard not to stay involved over the years and is now entering his fifth season as the Blue Wave's coach.
“When your dad's a coach and your older brother is playing, Fletcher just grew up in a dugout,” said Brian Simmons, who also graduated from P.K. Yonge in 1986. “It became evident early on that both of them were going to be athletic.”
The Simmons household quickly became a year-round support system, juggling three children's commitments between travel team competition and games during the school year. Soon after Kayla began playing volleyball at age 11, the family realized the term “offseason” was becoming nonexistent.
“For our whole life, (my parents have) paid for travel ball and all of my school and everything, so the least we can do is to pay it back and pay for our own college with a scholarship,” Fletcher Simmons said. “That's what I really want to do.”
While district titles and playoff berths have become the norm for both brother and sister, one common goal has remained elusive in their sibling rivalry — a state championship.
As P.K. Yonge moves up to Class 4A competition in four sports this year, both Fletcher and his father point to Kayla and her Blue Wave teammates as having the best chance to accomplish a family first.
“I really want to go to state, because every year I've been to regional finals,” Kayla Simmons said. “I just want to go to state one time, and it's my last chance. I think we can this year, because our coach (Chad Davis) is really good and we're already getting better.”
On pace for all three of his children to earn college athletic scholarships, Simmons said work ethic in practice and games has never been an issue for either Kayla or Fletcher.
Instead, Simmons and his wife have tried to remind both siblings of the challenges they don't see.
“Try to beat that kid that you don't even know,” Simmons said. “That way they're always battling against themselves to get better. Yesterday, I did 100 pushups. Today, I'm going to do 110. Because there's a kid out there that's working harder than you for that scholarship money. That's something we've preached to all our kids is hard work.”
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