Lisa Peeler, head volleyball coach at Berkmar, is in her first year as a teacher and coach at the Lilburn school, where she graduated in 1996. She previously worked at Collins Hill from 2001-04, where she coached and earned a state title ring in girls basketball, and at Grayson from 2007-10, where she coached basketball and cheerleading.
Peeler participated in basketball, track and still holds some female weight lifting records at Berkmar under her maiden name of Lawrence. In this latest installment of "Getting to Know...", Peeler talks with sports editor Will Hammock about her alma mater, 1990s fashion trends and her new hobby, mixed martial arts.
WH: What's it like being back at your alma mater?
LP: It's unique because sometimes I kind of forget I'm now a teacher here, not a student. It's deja vu all the time, especially with my boss being my old coach from high school (Mike Lancaster). He tells me to do things now and I say, 'Yes, sir,' like he's still my coach. But it's awesome. I love it. Not much has changed here other than the facilities.
WH: What has changed since you left?
LP: I guess two things have changed, the facilities and the growth, generally with the school system growing. Having Patriot pride has gone down a little bit. The culture around here is not as focused on athletic goals and playing for the school like they used to be. I've noticed that with my own athletes (in volleyball) and I'm working with them on that. There's not as much fan support as we had.
WH: Where was the place to hang out in Gwinnett when you were a teenager?
LP: The movie theater over by Gwinnett Place Mall. What was it called? I forget what it was called. Is it still there? It was always hang out at Gwinnett Place Mall and go to the movies.
WH: What were the fashion trends back then? Anything you regret wearing?
LP: Oh yeah, the tapered jeans. The high tops. We used to wear more of a high top sneaker than they wear now. And the hairstyles were great.
WH: Did you have the high bangs?
LP: I did. unfortunately.
WH: There was no choice back then. You had to.
LP: Oh yeah, you didn't have a choice. if you didn't, you'd be an outcast. I actually measured my bangs.
WH: Your colleagues told me you're a "bundle or energy." Do you have to stay busy to burn that off?
LP: That's so funny they said that. I don't see it that way. They say I'm energetic and hard to keep up with. I pretty much work out as much as I can with the kids (in her physical education classes) and then on my own after school. We work on speed, agility, weights, strength, footwork and cardio.
WH: I understand one of your hobbies is MMA (mixed martial arts). How did you get into that?
LP: I've always loved boxing, watching boxing. It was 14 months ago and Gina Carano was doing the MMA and I thought, 'I could be her. I'm going to be her.' I met my trainer here at Berkmar, he was training the football team. I told him, 'I want to fight' and he said he could help me out. I said, 'No, you don't understand. I really want to fight.' So January is going to be my first fight. I had elbow injury early on that set me back, but we're good now. I spent most of the first six months getting in ring shape.
WH: How angry do you get when someone hits you in the face?
LP: At first, it's very frustrating. To the point of where I'd go in out of control. Now I don't get as angry. Now it's, 'What did I do to leave myself open?' I'm always going to counter though. I'm going to come back with punches. Now my defense is good enough that I don't get hit as much. I try to protect this pretty face.
WH: Any jitters for the first fight?
LP: I don't have any so far. I have a feeling right when I'm about to step out there and I see the crowd for the first time, I might get jitters for a second. But I think those will go away.
WH: When you get hit for the first time, right?
LP: Right. No, when she gets hit for the first time. Let's make sure that's right.
WH: Who are you fighting in the first fight (scheduled for Wild Bill's in Duluth)?
LP: They haven't told me and I don't want to know just yet. I have another fight schedule in February, too. The goal is to be pro by end of the school year.
WH: Being fit is so important in MMA. Is staying on top of that one of the biggest parts of preparation?
LP: It's huge. Conditioning is huge in MMA and from what I'm told girls have a harder time than males with the training regimen. I do two-a-days at least three days a week, true two practices with my coach outside of school (Eric Johnson at the Wellness Performance Institute in Suwanee).
WH: So how many push-ups can you do?
LP: In a row? I don't know. He usually has me do sets of 50. He may have me do four sets of 50. So I know I can at least do 50.
WH: Do you put your PE students through pretty intense workouts then?
LP: I do. They don't like it. I hit my upperclassmen more so than my freshmen. They have more of a desire to do it. We run hills, we do speed, strength, agility. They don't like running hills, I'll put it that way.
WH: What kind of hoops player were you?
LP: I was definitely our defensive player and boards person. I was the big rebounder, being at the right place at the right time. I was the power forward, I played the four. I really should have been shooting guard, but that was not my role on team. We had Terri Slide to shoot. The team needed me at 4 so I accepted my role on the team. I did what a good teammate should do.
WH: You moved to Berkmar from San Francisco as a high school freshman. What was that like?
LP: It was a huge culture shock. Huge. I also came from a small Catholic private school to Berkmar. So it was big city life to Berkmar. A big change was the lack of culture in Lilburn. I came home from school and asked my mom, 'Where are all the other nationalities?' It was also the Southern ways. I didn't understand Southern football, Georgia football, the SEC and how everybody gets crazy. I didn't know any of that.
WH: You went to the University of Georgia, are you a big Bulldog fan now?
LP: Huge. I was a Georgia Girl at UGA and a hoops girl for the basketball team if that tells you anything.
WH: You never played organized volleyball. How was your first season as coach?
LP: It's been a challenge to learn the game, the strategies of the game coaching-wise and then learn my players as first-year coach at Berkmar. It almost took an entire season to sort through that. And I didn't have them last spring to work with them. I only started in July and our season started in August. But they are amazing girls as far as their attitude and their desire to want to get better.
WH: So are you coming back next year?
LP: Oh yeah, I'm not going anywhere for a long time.
WH: What do you see for the future of the volleyball program?
LP: I feel like I can make a difference. The goal is to take them to state within three years and build a family program where we're doing things constantly year round. We're bagging groceries during the holiday season, things like that. We're trying to build something that we do throughout the year, not just from July to October.