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Valley Tech is rallying around its Girls Volleyball coach, Barbara King as she battles breast cancer. Contributed photo

Dig Pink Game Becomes Personal for Valley Tech
Valley Tech volleyball coach Barbara King told her team to huddle up around her following a recent practice, just as she has done after pretty much every practice during her coaching career. She had an important message to deliver, but this time the tone was different and the importance heightened. King had to tell her team that she has breast cancer.
"We all huddled close on the floor and I explained everything," she said. "They cried, I cried, not much was really said." Her players came in close for a group hug and then, one by one, embraced their head coach. They cheered "mama" after a three-count. That's how tight-knit this program is, they call King "mama."
"They are all very sweet and caring," she said. "They are what is keeping me positive besides my own kids."
Any cancer diagnosis is serious, but King is fortunate in some ways. The doctors caught it early, and she has a confident, upbeat attitude. Then again, some people make their own luck. King has been an outspoken advocate of breast cancer awareness. Each October since 2009, the Beavers have participated in the "Dig Pink" event through Side Out Foundation as part of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The team wears pink, sells tee shirts, and raises funds to benefit breast cancer research and treatment, more than $10,000 in total.
In addition to raising funds, King has constantly talked about the importance of early detection, and now she finds herself the benefactor of her own good advice. "It's ironic," she admits. "But if not for the mammogram, I would not have known. There was no lump and no other symptoms."
This year's "Dig Pink" game will take place on Monday, October 21 against Douglas. The JV match is scheduled for 5 p.m. with the varsity to follow at 6 p.m. King wants people to know about her story and her diagnosis. Her role is far from symbolic, she's a walking advertisement for putting oneself in a better position through early detection and she wants people to know about it.
"I have been an advocate, doing "Dig Pink" for five years now, it's what I do," she said. "I can't not say anything, this isn't just about me, it's important that women get mammograms. It might be painful but it can save your life."
As support systems go, King has a pretty good one. Her teams are so close, they've been dubbed the "Sisterhood of the Traveling Volleyball Team," a play on the young adult novels by Ann Brashares. Each year, she raves about the chemistry and character of her teams, from practices to pasta dinners to off-season training, the players are rarely separated. Over the years, King has impacted hundreds of young women, and the lessons she has taught transcend the volleyball court, as does the joy they've given her.




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