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Pitman grad Randhawa returns to alma mater to coach boys volleyball program
Kaylin Randhawa
Kaylin Randhawa, a 2018 Pitman High grad, is back with the Pride, this time as coach of the boys volleyball team (CANDY PADILLA/The Journal).

Kaylin Randhawa, a Pitman High grad who starred for the Pride on the basketball and volleyball courts, always knew she wanted to be a coach.

And, after concluding an NCAA Division I basketball career that led her to three different stops (Pacific, Utah State and Sacramento State), Randhawa is back at her alma mater with a whistle around her neck.

“Yes, 100 percent, I always knew I wanted to be a teacher and a coach,” said Randhawa, whose sister, Parmine Randhawa coaches the Pitman girls varsity basketball squad, while her brother, Amarapreet Randhawa, coaches hoops at Turlock Junior High. “But did I think I’d be coaching volleyball? No.”

Not only is Randhawa coaching a different sport than she thought she might, she’s coaching a different gender.

Upon her graduation in 2018, there was no boys volleyball program at Pitman. The school didn’t add the sport for the gents until 2023, with girls coach Kristen Pontes-Christian stepping in at the last minute to help get the program off the ground.

Pontes-Christian has since stepped down from all coaching duties, and with Ari Amini set to take over the girls program, that opened up an opportunity to coach the fellas.

Enter Randhawa, who was a freshman call-up on Pitman’s Sac-Joaquin Section and NorCal champion team of 2014, then helped the Pride win two more D-1 titles in 2015 and 2016.

The Pitman boys will begin the 2024 campaign on Saturday at the Orestimba Tournament in Newman, followed by a road game Tuesday in Livingston, and their first home appearance of the season on Feb. 29 against Golden Valley (Merced) at 5:30 p.m. Central California Athletic League play begins on March 7, with a home game against Gregori at 6:30 p.m.

Randhawa’s predecessor, for one, thinks she’s a perfect fit.

“I’m excited for Kaylin to take over the boys program this year,” said Randhawa’s mentor, Pontes-Christian. "Being a former Pitman volleyball player, Coach Kay helped lead us to multiple successful seasons. She was always a coach’s dream. She holds many qualities of both a great athlete and coach: natural leader, great communicator, upbeat personality, hard worker, strong work ethic and holds herself accountable. I’m so happy that the timing of taking over this program worked out for Kay with both finishing school and moving back home. The varsity boys are very lucky to have her back in the gym leading them in their second season.”

Athletic director Dustin Curtiss, who was the girls basketball coach when Randhawa was at Pitman, agrees with Pontes-Christian.

“When she was an athlete here, she was very disciplined in her training and her studies,” said Curtiss, who was part of the hiring committee that brought Randhawa aboard. “It was never just basketball. It’s was basketball, then homework, then more basketball, then more homework. She understands that process.

“And you can tell that by playing at college level she really started to understand how to think as a coach. At  the college level, you have to think. You can’t just rely on your athleticism.”

Though it’s not the sport she always assumed she’d coach, Randhawa is excited to begin her coaching journey, even though it’s been seven years since she played volleyball.

“This is Year 2 and we only have a varsity team, but they have an energy to win,” said Randhawa. “Will there be a learning curve? One hundred percent. But God has my plan written, so we’ll see what happens.”