She also had support in her own athletic career and said that she and her two sisters and three brothers were all involved in youth sports in her hometown of Victorville. She she and her siblings all played Little League baseball, and at Victor Valley High School she played basketball, softball and volleyball and ran track.
Her parents encouraged all their children to get involved in sports and didn't treat her and her sisters differently from her brothers, she said, adding that her parents would take the children to tournaments and drive long distances to see them play.
"If we wanted to play, we played. But at the same time, they didn't push us into sports."
Her athletic achievements in high school gave her a push toward higher education. She said that when she graduated from high school she received the Keith Gunn award, a four-year college scholarship awarded to a scholar-athlete that was established in the name of a former Victory Valley principal.
With the scholarship, she earned her bachelor's degree, a teaching credential in physical education and a coaching credential.
She went to work after graduation, coaching boys basketball teams and working with the Special Olympics at Devereaux School in Santa Barbara and later teaching special education and physical education classes at the Long Beach Children's School.