BRANDON — Marissa Kazbour, one of the most decorated girls soccer players in Hillsborough County history, makes her return to Tampa sidelines Saturday.
But this time, she'll be doing so with a whistle around her neck.
Kazbour leads George Jenkins against Cape Coral Ida S. Baker at the USF Soccer Stadium with the 4A state title on the line Saturday. A two-time Times Player of the Year at Bloomingdale, Kazbour took over the Eagles before the season after wrapping up her playing career at Florida State University.
Times correspondent Brandon Wright spoke with Kazbour about her days at Bloomingdale and making the transition from player to coach.
This is your first head coaching position, and at a national powerhouse, no less (George Jenkins is 26-0 and ranked No. 3 by ESPN). That's quite an undertaking for someone with no prior head coaching experience.
I helped out at Bloomingdale last year, so I knew what to expect. I was confident in my ability and have always been a student of the game. I just wanted to come in and show the girls how hard I was going to work, and I expected the same from them.
At 22, you're not much older than the girls you're coaching. How does that dynamic work?
Well, it was something that I was concerned about coming in. I knew I had to set a tone early on and let them know that I can joke around with them when we're away from the field, but when it's time to work, it's time to work.
Did you always envision yourself coaching one day?
Like I said, I was always a student of the game. I used to keep a notebook with me as a kid, and I would jot down training tips and drills that I liked. I was training kids on the side when I was 15 years old, so I always knew this was something I wanted to do someday.
You were a star at Bloomingdale but you almost didn't end up there. Talk about your time as a Bull.
My parents wanted me to continue to go to private school, and I begged them to let me go to Bloomingdale. They met Coach (Sue) Peet and knew I was in good hands. It speaks a lot about (Peet) as a person and coach.
Speaking of, Coach Peet said this season will be her last after 25 years and a pair of state titles at Bloomingdale and Coconut Creek. What are some of your memories of her?
She is a phenomenal coach and a great person. I learned so much from her, and I use a lot of those things with my team now. We still talk after games and stay in touch.
You were the standard for area players your junior and senior seasons. Talk about your playing days at Bloomingdale.
I loved my time there. … They used to call me and Kelsey Primiano the dynamic duo back then. It was great to see articles written about you, and I was pretty much allowed to get away with anything back then. I definitely miss those days.
Your parents own Kazbor's Grille in Riverview as well as a number of Hungry Howie's Pizza locations. Do you still have ties with the Tampa area?
I've always been a Bloomingdale kid and I always will be. I still live in Brandon. I haven't been to the new USF soccer field, but I'm looking forward to seeing it. I've heard it's a beautiful complex.
You were in these girls' shoes not too long ago when Bloomingdale lost in the 2006 state finals. How are you getting this team ready?
They are very driven and have had this goal in mind since the first day of practice. I do occasionally break out my scrapbook from (2006) and show them how close I came and use that as motivation for them. Hopefully this time around I can avenge that loss.
This report was edited for brevity and clarity.