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In this file photo from 2001, Tiera Como was a standout goalkeeper for East Valley before playing at Eastern Washington University. Como-Irby was hired as girls soccer coach at Ridgeline High School.

Ridgeline softball coach Alyssa Rasmussen played with some of the biggest names in the sport. Now she’ll have the chance to share her love of the game as coach of the fastpitch and slowpitch teams for the Falcons.

“I’ve been a softball player my entire life,” Rasmussen said. “I dreamed of the day in which I would get to ultimately be able to build my own team. And where better to do it than Liberty Lake where I live and my kids will go to school?”

The last part means a lot to her.

“Being a part of the big picture of the community and doing that in a positive way for these girls and showing them everything that I love, and the reason why I love it and how it continues to, you know, be who I am and to do what I do.”

Rasmussen lettered four years at Mission Viejo (California) High School before a full softball scholarship to the University of Georgia. She was head coach at El Toro High School in Laguna Beach, California, before moving to the area.

Rasmussen has had a couple of stints as an assistant coach at Central Valley before being hired at Ridgeline. The new Central Valley School District high school will open in the fall and compete in the Greater Spokane League.

“I had the opportunity to play with the best of the best,” she said. “I was the center fielder behind Jenny Finch. And Natasha Watley at shortstop and Jessica Mendoza at second base.

“I’ve been so blessed through that, and I feel like seeing where they’ve gone and what they’ve done – they’re role models, and I finally get the opportunity to kind of do the same.”

Rasmussen doesn’t take that lightly.

“I’m so excited for not just me, but teaching my girls about that, too. They’re role models out on that field. Whether they want to be or not, people are looking up to (them), and little girls in Little League are looking up saying, ‘I want to be a part of that. I want to do that one day.’ So teaching the girls that they too are role models even at a younger age.”

Rasmussen believes coaching girls extends off the field.

“I think it’s so great for me to be able to have a female-to-female conversation about certain things,” she said. “Coaching is coaching, but it’s the life experiences that I bring to the table, too.”

Local knowledge

The Falcons didn’t have to look too far to fill their girls soccer coach position.

Tiera Como-Irby starred at goalkeeper at East Valley before a stellar career at Eastern Washington, where she became the first soccer player, male or female, to be inducted into the EWU Athletics Hall of Fame in 2017.

Como-Irby was a two-time All-Big Sky first-team selection and defensive MVP in 2005 and ’06, setting team records that still stand. She’s been an assistant at University and CV and now has her first head coaching position.

As with Rasmussen, Como-Irby relishes the opportunity to be a role model for female students. She didn’t have her first female coach until college.

“It was almost like that missing piece that I never had in high school,” she said. “I really wish that I had that female role model to look up to see that you can do it all – you can be the mom, you can be the coach, you can be a teacher. I feel like I kind of missed out a little bit in high school, and so that’s what I want to be for my student-athletes.”

Como-Irby knows firsthand about some of the things women in sports have to deal with that men don’t. When her son was born in 2012, she was forced to resign her position due to a rule that prohibited women coaching while on maternity leave.

With the help of the state coaches union, Como-Irby was able to address and change the unfair rule – though the process took three years, just before she had her daughter in 2015.

“There I was, nine months pregnant on the sidelines,” he said. “I took like a week off and then I was back on the softball field again for playoffs and she was right there with me again.”

Advocating for girls

New Falcons girls tennis coach Russ Tarmann doesn’t have to try to be an advocate for girls – in his blended family he has four daughters and two sons. He’s used to being a protective figure.

“I think there’s more of the ‘dad aspect’ to it,” he said. “You want to protect them all, and they all kind of become your kids.

“From that aspect, there’s more of a responsibility because you also want to teach them character, you want to teach them responsibility, how to advocate for themselves and how to stand up for themselves.”

A CV grad and former CV freshman football coach, Tarmann has been girls tennis coach at CV for the past two years.

“I like coaching tennis because it’s a lifelong sport and it’s creating a journey. It’s not something that’s just going to go away after they’re seniors.”

Tarmann also likes that tennis is a no-cut sport.

“We get a lot of girls that come out that want to play and participate and be active,” he said. “And then we have some girls that are very competitive, that are taking the lessons and they want to compete at the varsity level.”

Tennis might attract a novice athlete who wants to participate without the added pressure of expectation.

“Its building the desire to play and being part of something bigger than just the one person,” he said. “It’s building a team unity in an individual sport.”