Coach Carol Chalu paved the way that many are still following

TAMPA, Florida – The kids running on the Tampa Prep court didn’t know her.

But they know the name. Because it’s everywhere. And the same goes for all the banners she has earned.

Carol Chalu’s footprint is all over this Tampa Prep gym. Perhaps the little ones running around hadn’t known her. But they’re reaping the benefits of everything she’s done for the Terrapins.

“There are people who come and go in people’s lives and I have to tell you, Carol was a special person,” Tampa Prep head basketball coach Joe Fenlon said.

Tampa Prep head basketball coach Joe Fenlon has a state championship on his resume. He can therefore only watch the 12 volleyball titles won by Chalu, including six in a row, with admiration.

“She taught me the importance of preparation,” Fenlon said. “She never went to a game, a practice, a lesson without being impeccably prepared.”

She was so present at Tampa Prep, until she wasn’t. On May 18, Chalu lost his long battle with Alzheimer’s disease.

“It’s not fair that this had to happen to Carol. But I’m sure she fought like she did to prepare for a game,” said Joey Johnson, a longtime sportswriter in the region.” She fought a private war and did it with class and dignity. And she certainly left her mark on this world.

Johnston thought of Chalu enough to include him on a list of Tampa Bay’s Top 25 Title IX trailblazers. Johnston covered Chalu’s first state volleyball championship, a win that sparked a six-game title streak.

“It didn’t matter what she coached, who she coached, she was a leader,” Johnston said. “She was a people’s leader. Extremely organized, knew what she was doing. Way ahead of its time. Way ahead of its time. »

Chalu made history as Florida State’s first female high school athletic director. She was also a pioneer on the court, revolutionizing the sport she dominated by starting what many consider to be the state’s first club volleyball league.

“In the 70s, when women’s sport was just beginning, when there was still a long way to go for women’s sport,” he said. “A lot of skepticism, a lot of criticism. But Carol did her job and she won.

Kids beating the heat this summer inside the Tampa Prep gymnasium might see her name and wonder who she was. Those who knew her will be happy to tell them all about this revolutionary force of nature.

“She could have coached football. She could have coached baseball,” Johnston said. “Anything, because she knew how to bring people together, motivate them and move them forward in the direction of working together as a team.

“She was at home in the gym. She was at home working with her children, building her teams.

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