‘Once I got in the dirt with them, they respected that’

Melia Garcia, Lakewood’s first female football coach, helps the players on the offensive line.



Coach Melia Garcia works with a player from the offensive line on a blocking drill in May on the Lakewood High School practice field.


History is being made at Lakewood High School this football season. For the first time ever in Pinellas County high school sports, a female football coach is on the sidelines. 

History teacher Melia Garcia got the job at the end of last year after the season ended; her duties as a coach started this year. Those duties consist of offensive line coaching, film analyzing and academic help.

Garcia had already coached cheerleading and basketball at her old school in Pennsylvania. However, this is her first opportunity coaching football. She said her family loved football and she learned to love it as well. She also said one of her best friends in high school was an All-American offensive lineman.

“He opened my eyes to all the work the offensive line puts in and how important they truly are,” Garcia said. 

At first, the players were a little unsure about a female coach.

“I was confused when they called her coach, but then, once I saw her in action, I thought she was just like the other coaches,” sophomore football player Giovanni Almond said.

Garcia said she knew that as soon as she showed them her experience and talent as a coach, they would change their minds.

“Once I got in the dirt with them, they respected that,” Garcia said.

Garcia has gained respect from all the players by being reliable and knowing how to put in work to achieve an athletic goal. She said that when she played basketball for her high school, her coach was very hard on the players, and none of the players liked it.

“But then later on, we were undefeated, and I was never in better shape. I owed it to her and the drive she instilled in all of us, and I wanted to do that for others and inspire these growing adults,” Garcia said. 

She not only earned this merit from the players, but also from the coaches, especially head coach Cory Moore. 

“She is a phenomenal teacher, and she can convey great information to the kids,” Moore said.

Garcia came to Lakewood with no intention of being a coach, but when Moore and Garcia would pass in the hallways, she would joke with him about how the team was doing. Then one day she jokingly asked if he needed help, and he wondered if she was serious. 

“There wasn’t much convincing; he knew my reputation as a good teacher and my knowledge of football,” Garcia said. 

And although Garcia may not have come with the intention of being a football coach, she has always wanted to be some type of coach.

“I have wanted to coach since I was younger,” she said. 

At the game against Gibbs High School on Friday (9/10), Garcia wore a headset and was stationed in the booth above the field calling plays for the offensive line. 

She, along with all the other coaches and players, are excited for the upcoming season and preparing for a championship year.

She said she is especially looking forward to putting a standard in place for all women to have coaching positions. 

“I want to set the tone,” she said.