Volleyball club gives girls in rural reservation community the chance to play competitively

Watch "Our America: Fifty50" on your local ABC station or wherever you stream: Fire TV, Android TV, Apple TV and Roku

ByKassandra Gutierrez via KFSN logo
Friday, June 17, 2022
EMBED <>More Videos

Despite the hour-long commute to practice, girls in rural California's Tule River Tribe said life would be "crazy" without NU Breed Volleyball Club.

TULANE COUNTY, Calif. -- Cousins Samirah Gibson Nieto and Aliya Gibson are members of the federally recognized Tule River Tribe.

Samirah lives on the reservation in rural Southeast Tulare County in California, while Aliya's family lives in Porterville, 13 miles down the mountain.

Despite their long daily commute, the girls remain thankful for the opportunity to play for NU Breed Volleyball Club at a competitive level.

"Life without volleyball would be crazy. Life without sports -- even crazier," Aliya Gibson said. "I personally grew up doing sports. I found my love for volleyball five years ago, and I wouldn't want to stop at it. It makes me happy and makes me want to keep going. I find motivation in it. My coaches are my motivation."

It's an opportunity not available to them on the reservation. Due to many factors such as funding, access, distance and limited resources, club volleyball doesn't exist on the Tule River Reservation.

The Porterville High School sophomores are so passionate about the sport that they are willing to travel to Lindsay, California, about an hour away from their homes.

"That definitely was a different atmosphere. It is a lot more competitive," said Samirah Gibson, who started playing with NU Breed Volleyball a year ago. "NU Breed is a very good place to be ... because they teach you, and you come together as family. It's like a little community."

NU Breed was founded in 2018 by Job and Jana Lara, who said they started with 17 players and zero equipment. Even without balls and nets, Job Lara said he had "nothing but this desire and the dream to start this club."

He said the nets they use now were found in the trash.

"They were all torn out. They were thrown away, and I rescued them." Job said. "That's what we are using today. I bring them out here so that we never, I never, forget where we started from and that what we have now is a lot more than what we started. [It's] also a reminder that if you work hard, good things can happen."

The word of NU Breed traveled quickly within the reservation, Job said.

"One person liked it, and they told somebody else, 'You got to come.' Now we [have] a little over 100 kids in the program," he said.

Aliya, a member of the Tule River's Yokut tribe, said her community keeps culture and traditions alive, like practicing their native language and maintaining life on the reservation.

"I would describe [the reservation] as freeing. You're surrounded by nature, and it's really beautiful," she said.

The girls' cousins, Ramona Innnaeo and Grace Clower, are also NU Breed volleyball players.

"I live about an hour away from where we practice, so it's a long drive and a commute, but we're going to make do with it because I want to play," Ramona said.

"I'm the setter, and Aliya is the middle, and Ramona's our outside hitter. Whenever we need points, I can rely on them. We play for part of it together too, so it's fun back-and-forth." Grace added.

SEE ALSO: What is Title IX?

The girls said they are grateful for the opportunity to play and for the pioneers who helped push 1972's Title IX of the Education Amendments, the landmark civil rights law widely known for its strides toward gender equity for women and girls who play sports.

"Title IX means opportunities and a whole new world and being able to do stuff that I know that no girl had been able to do before. I can play and do things that they weren't able to do, and so I'm like doing it for them," Samirah said.

Both Coach Job and Samirah said the country must continue conversations about equality and social justice.

"There are a lot of small conversations, but with ESPN highlighting [Title IX], it really expands the conversation to a much greater area," Job said. "I think it could be the flame that starts another flame and more conversation."

Watch Sofia Carson host "Our America: Fifty50," an ABC Owned Television Stations special commemorating the 50th anniversary of Title IX, on your local ABC station (click here to check local listings) or wherever you stream: Fire TV, Android TV, Apple TV and Roku.