In the last year, Georgetown ISD speech language pathologist Jeremy Mirken led a team of athletes from all over the U.S. to earn championship titles in two global competitions for Sepak Takraw, a sport also known as kick volleyball.

The Southeast Asian sport is similar to volleyball, with players divided by a net. The goal is to pass the ball over the net with a maximum of three touches without using their hands or arms.

Mirken happened upon Sepak Takraw while living in California, when he saw a group of his neighbors playing the sport in the parking lot of his apartment complex. For years, he had played kicking-based sports, such as footbag, and joined his neighbors in playing. He grew to love the sport, and began competing in international tournaments before becoming a coach. Mirken is also the vice chair of Sepak Takraw of USA, a nonprofit promoting the sport in the U.S.

Community Impact spoke with Mirken about his experiences coaching Sepak Takraw and goals to integrate the program in local physical education programs where possible. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

How did you get involved with Sepak Takraw of USA?

I started organizing and promoting the game here in the US with those friends that I used to play with. We started traveling all around the U.S. organizing demos and exhibitions. Eventually, I joined a nonprofit here in the U.S. that promotes the game. We try to give free equipment to people and teach the game and kind of just show it in places where people don't know it.

How did you get started coaching Sepak Takraw for Team USA?

We brought five players, and we went to South Korea. I said, "So I'm helping you guys like get ready for this event, helping you do your paperwork so that you guys don't get turned away at the border." None of us had ever traveled to South Korea. There's a lot of hoops you had to jump through because of COVID stuff. And they said, "No, we want you to go with us, and we want you to coach us while we're there." I didn't have experience coaching but I said I will do it if that's the only way you guys are comfortable. I went and they basically gave me the respect of an actual coach. I took the job seriously, and I coached them when they needed it through that tournament.

Are you going to continue to coach the team?

If there is somebody who is more qualified to do it than I am, that comes along and says, "I would like to do this instead of you"; or if somebody comes along who's extremely qualified and says, "I would like to learn how to be a coach, so let me be your assistant coach"; I would happily take that on. Because even though I love going to Thailand, and I love spending time with those players, it's extremely stressful. I have a young family, and it can be hard to get away for two weeks or three weeks in order to make something like that happen. If someone were ready, I would gladly move down to assistant coach.

Do you have any plans to bring this game to the Georgetown community?

I would absolutely love to get this game into the P.E. curriculum in Georgetown ISD. I've done it before in my previous school district when I was living in California. I did multiple school assemblies. Middle school and high school kids get very excited about this game.

Is there anything that you've learned in Sepak Takraw that you have brought into your job?

It's taught me that I need to focus on myself and what I can do in the moment, and kind of just shift my focus inward as opposed to wondering or worrying about whether my players will do their jobs correctly. There's definitely some of that in the special education world. We work as an interdisciplinary team, to evaluate students to provide services. If I'm worried about other service providers or other evaluators, and whether they're going to do their job correctly or not—the job's already super stressful. A carryover is simply having trust in the team that like we will all pull it together and create a good plan.