Braceros returns home as head coach at Elk Grove
Tara Braceros is returning home -- at least for volleyball.
The Buffalo Grove science teacher has been named the head girls volleyball coach at Elk Grove High School.
Bracero was an outside hitter for former Grenadiers coach Joe Di Silvio in 2009 before heading to the University of Illinois to study kinesiology.
Braceros has been studying volleyball even longer.
She started realizing she might want to coach while in high school.
"When I was playing at Elk Grove, it was common for some of the girls to go and manage the boys volleyball teams," Braceros said. "So for my sophomore through senior years I was the manager for the boys volleyball team."
Bracero remembers vividly how coach Dan Windholz referred to her as an assistant coach rather than a manager.
"He would really talk through his decisions with you and I got to hear how he ran the team and listen to all of his talks to the team," Braceros said. "I'd see all the behind the scene things that you don't get to know as a player."
Bracero began enjoying the inside scoop.
"So that was when I really started to know I wanted to coach in the future, " she said.
After graduating from Illinois, Braceros was hired by Elk Grove girls volleyball coach Stephanie Kezios to be an assistant in the program.
Braceros served as an underlevel coach on Kezios' staff from 2014 to 1217.
She was a teaching assistant and working toward her master's degree while serving on Kezios' staff.
The last two years she has been the freshman 'A' coach for Buffalo Grove, where she got hired as a science, biology/chemistry teacher.
But now she will make the trip from one Grove to the other in District 214 where she will direct her own program.
"This is something I've wanted since I started coaching," said Bracero, who also coaches club volleyball.
She credits her mother Vivien with getting her into volleyball.
"My mom played volleyball in the Philippines for a year when she was in college," Braceros said. "She is the one who got my younger brothers (Jake and Kevin) and me into the sport (park district volleyball camps in elementary and middle school).
"So volleyball is a huge part of my family."
Jake (graduated in 2013 from EG) and Kevin (2017) Braceros played for Windholz. Kevin is going to be a senior at North Central where he plays on the men's volleyball team. Jake also played for North Central College where he was a first team all-conference selection in his senior year.
Jake currently coaches the sophomore team at Rolling Meadows High School.
Now, Tara can't wait to start lead her own varsity high school volleyball team.
"I think the cool thing is that I've gotten to work with four different head coaches from Mid-Suburban League boys and girls volleyball," Braceros said. "Kezios gave me my first coaching job. So she saw potential in me and she has been there for me in my whole coaching career."
At Buffalo Grove, Braceros had the opportunity to work with girls coach Matt Priban and boys coach Tim Kosiek.
"Getting to work with four different head coaches in the conference is not something many people have gotten to do and they've all provided me so much support and guidance throughout my career," Braceros said. "And they've even been a help in getting this process started for me."
Braceros will start with a few familiar faces on the court.
"I will know the would-be seniors this fall," she said. "They were freshmen in my last year coaching at Elk Grove."
Braceros said she will stress dedication, hard work and effort from her Grenadiers.
"That's why I am excited to take over this program," she said. "Elk Grove is known as being a program with players who, no matter what situation or the score, they give 100 percent until the end. So I am excited to continue that and build on the skills they possess."
Kezios is one who built that mentality of giving 100 percent.
In January, she accepted a teaching position in Rome, Italy where she had planned to begin in August.
That is why she resigned her head volleyball post and was awarded a leave of absence from Elk Grove.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Italy opportunity fell through.
"I am so grateful to still have my teaching position at Elk Grove," Kezios said. "But I decided it would be inappropriate to ask for my coaching position back since the hiring process for my replacement had already begun and I'd already released the news to my families by the time everything changed a few weeks ago."