Phyllis Amodo is continuously asked what it is like to coach players flung all over the Kodiak archipelago.
“People can’t believe the diversity that we have on our team and don’t understand how it works,” said Amodo, the head coach of the Kodiak ESS volleyball and girls basketball teams.
In 2012, with the Kodiak Island Borough School District’s rural campuses seeing a downtick in enrollment, the ESS program was built to allow students an opportunity to play sports.
Instead of representing their school’s colors, students from Akhiok, Karluk, Larsen Bay, Ouzinkie, Port Lions and Old Harbor — villages that are not on the road system and are only accessible by plane or boat — joined forces on one court. The Ravens play volleyball and basketball in the 1A classification.
Because of the remote locations of the schools, students spend more time playing games than they do practicing together.
“It is a difficult job because you have to coach other members from different communities and try to do distant coaching,” said Amodo, who lives in Akhiok. “We don’t get the day-to-day playtime as a regular team has ... we are lucky to have five to 10 practices together.”
Amodo’s dedication to the program earned her the Alaska Students Activities Association Region II Female Coach of the Year award, which she received last week.
There are more than 40 schools in Region II.
“Very deserving and such a dedicated supporter of our student-athletes,” KIBSD assistant principal for rural schools Todd Burton wrote in an email.
Amodo said she was surprised that she was tabbed coach of the year.
“My teams have always exhibited excellence sportsmanship on and off the court, and I am very honored to receive this award,” she said.
Burton said the award encompasses Amodo’s work as a volleyball and basketball coach this past season.
“There is no greater feeling quite like helping young athletes,” Amodo wrote in an email. “Watching their talent and dedication grow into a skill that we all can be proud of — just to be able to see their smile when they have reached their goal.”
This was the first year that Kodiak ESS fielded a girls basketball team. The past two seasons, Amodo coached a coed team that competed in the boys division.
Four of the team’s six girls lived in Akhiok, which made it easier for Amodo to plan practices — the other two girls practiced remotely.
The gym in Akhiok is carpeted and half the size of a regular court.
“We don’t get full-court advantages for practices, but it is better than nothing,” she said.
Amodo, who works at the school in Akhiok, started coaching four years ago, the past three as head coach.
Her passion for sports stems from her days in the Kodiak school system, where she played volleyball, basketball and ran track and cross country.
“Growing up, I always had a basketball in my hand and always went to open gym,” she said.
She was instructed by legendary coaches Mike Platt and Harry Mickelson before graduating in 1990.
“I always admired coach Platt and coach Mickelson,” Amodo said. “Being able to be coached by them was an honor.”
Amodo, who was raised by her grandparents, moved to Akhiok in 1993 to help her grandmother after her grandfather had died. She has never left.
Amodo said she wouldn’t give up her world for a “normal” coaching gig on the road system.
“I love what I do and I love where I am at,” she said. “I love the opportunity that I have here to be able to be part of kids’ lives who didn’t have this opportunity 10 years ago.”