You don't have to talk long to Payson High School girls soccer coach Linda Gibson to realize her focus on teaching more than just soccer is no doubt what led fellow 3A East soccer coaches to name her Coach of the Year.
Gibson was born in Florida and moved to Paradise Valley when she was in second grade. She participated in a variety of sports in school including competing on the high school swim, track and soccer teams.
"I've enjoyed soccer ever since I was little," she said.
Her interest in soccer stayed with her through the years, and she even played two years for her college team at Northern Arizona University.
Gibson started her career in Flagstaff coaching on a city league in 1992.
Gibson married Payson native Mark Gibson and the two quickly found themselves struggling with lengthy commutes from their home in Flagstaff. Mark would make the 90-minute drive to Payson each day while Gibson made the lengthy drive to her teaching job at Grand Canyon High School, where she also coached soccer.
Four years ago, the two moved to Payson a move that helped ignite the PHS girls soccer program.
"My first year here was the first year PHS had a girls soccer team," she said.
When asked what her goals as a coach are, Gibson's true colors come shining through. "I'd like to just have a group of girls that would one day say something like, 'That was a great year, I got a lot out of it' or 'I really learned something,'" she said.
The seasoned coach counts this year's soccer campaign as one of her career highlights.
"The personalities of the girls on the team were definitely the best thus far," she said.
She said her coaching trip to Australia was also part of what made this year so special. Gibson, along with five players from Payson and a number of others from around the state, traveled to the land down under to compete against other teams from that country. "It was an opportunity of a lifetime," she said. "The girls were like an extended family and when we got home it was kind of sad to say goodbye, because you had done everything with these girls for the past three weeks."