Jennifer Goble-Poyer, one of the most decorated athletes in Eastern New Mexico University history, was in Portales in February for retirement of her basketball and volleyball jerseys.
The San Antonio, Texas native left ENMU’s volleyball squad as the Zias’ career kills leader in volleyball when she graduated (1,687) and still ranks second. The Zias went 105-35 during her tenure and won the 1993 Lone Star Conference title, and she is still the only Zia to be a four-time All-LSC first-selection.
And that was her second sport. She came to play basketball, and finished with the highest career scoring total (1,852), season average (23.9 in 1991-92) and career average (20.4).
She is married to former Zia assistant volleyball coach Sia Poyer. The two have three children and reside near Valdosta, Ga., where he is head volleyball coach at Valdosta State. They have three children.
Goble-Poyer now runs an at-home business, and responded to our Q&A request via email:
Q: What are your first memories of sports?
A: Trying out for basketball with my best friend in 7th grade and spending most of my time on the bench.
Q: Was there a moment that you realized you could play sports beyond high school?
A: The summer after my sophomore year in high school, my sister, a teammate and I got up almost every morning at 4:30 to go across town to work out with the football coaches from Highlands High School, because a teammate’s uncle was the coach there. We lifted weights and usually spent at least an hour or two playing against the football coaches ...We were playing one of those mornings, later in the summer and I realized that I was really PLAYING; I looked around and realized that I was actually hanging with the football coaches and starting to find my “inner athleticism.” I think it was then that I thought I really could have a shot at playing in college if I kept working hard.
Q: How did you come to attend ENMU?
A: My high school basketball coach, Steve White, was an ENMU graduate — he played golf at Eastern. He mentioned that he thought I would really like Coach Moore, and I have to say he was totally right.
It took me actually coming to Portales and meeting Coach Moore and the team to think this was the place for me. My sister was coming on her recruiting trip, because she was going to transfer from Texas Lutheran College, and I decided to tag along. Frankly, I was just coming for the experience of the trip and to hang with my sister, I didn’t really expect that ENMU would end up being my choice.
Q: How did volleyball come into play?
A: When I first came to ENMU, I had decided that I wanted to focus on basketball. Throughout high school, I played club volleyball and basketball and I just felt like basketball players were just easier to get along with, in general. That attitude didn’t really translate to the (volleyball) team here; they were a great group of young women.
One day, after pre-season basketball practice in one of the side gyms in the arena, I walked by the main floor, heard the sounds of volleyball, and peeked in to see. When I saw them practicing, I remembered how much FUN volleyball was and realized I missed it a lot. I watched for a little while and decided I would do what I could to add volleyball.
Q: Where did you feel you had an advantage regarding basketball?
A: I think a few things gave me an advantage in basketball:
• First, my work ethic — I was always in the gym playing with males. I learned the benefits of that scenario playing those football coaches at Highlands High School all those mornings. After that I spent a lot of time at Lackland Air Force Base in high school. I always found a way to play against men because they were faster, stronger and generally didn’t care to pass to a female or get schooled by one, so I had to work harder if I wanted to even touch the ball.
• Second, being left handed I think was a huge advantage because most people are not left-handed and defenders forget and leave my strong side open or lean nose-first into my elbow because they expect the ball to be on the other side of my body.
• Third, I am deceptively strong. Although I was not a tall center, there weren’t many I played against who I couldn’t post up against. And, as coaches said, I never saw a shot I didn’t like.
Q: Same question for volleyball.
A: I think the main thing that gave me an advantage in volleyball was my being left-handed. And having the physique of a basketball player, being so strong upper-body, meant that even though I didn’t have the best form, I could really hit the tar out of the ball. And sometimes, even when you’re not as good as other players, when you hit hard, people don’t notice the mistakes as much.
I think my intensity also gave me an advantage because I never wanted to give in or let up.
Q: What’s the biggest challenge about being a two-sport athlete? I’d think it would be time.
A: Managing time was definitely the biggest challenge. Having to balance two varsity sports and carrying a full course load was not easy. But being on scholarships helped, because I didn’t have to worry about getting a job to pay for school; My job was school. That was a huge blessing to have five years of free room and board. The fall semesters were always the most difficult, because as soon as the travel for volleyball season ended, the travel for basketball season began. There was no break or catch-up time until mid-spring, when basketball ended.
Q: How does being a two-sport athlete change your offseason?
A: It makes things much harder physically, especially for recovery time. I look back and am not sure I was in good enough physical condition to accommodate my intensity level from August through April.
I guess the only regret I have is that I didn’t understand how eating the right foods can make all the difference in the world. But I enjoyed it, because I missed a lot of the “hard running” before basketball season because I was in the middle of volleyball season while my basketball teammates were running the bridge.
Q: What’s your favorite story about Coach Wayne Moore, your former basketball coach?
A: Coach Moore used to carry a picture in his wallet. There’s no way to describe it better than that it was a picture of a very unattractive female. My freshman year, after a practice, he pulled it out of his wallet and showed it to me. He smiled longingly and told me it was his wife and said something like, “Isn’t she beautiful?”
Before I could answer he followed up with telling me in melancholy way that she had passed away. He let me stew in my awkward silence for a while before he told me that he was actually kidding. It’s funny now. And just for the record, his wife Linda is beautiful.
I think a new favorite Coach Moore story is when we were standing on the court at the basketball games when they announced about my jerseys being retired, I hugged him and told him I loved him, and he hugged me and said in his slow country drawl, “I love you too, J.” Surrogate fathers are the best.
Q: Same question for your former volleyball coach, Mike Maguire?
A: When we played at Cameron University one time, I hit a player from the other team in the face so hard that her feet flew right out from under her and she landed flat on her back like a turtle that’s been turned over onto its shell. She had to be taken out of the game. When I first hit the ball, Coach Maguire was out of his seat immediately with a Tiger Woods fist pump and a strong cheer of “Yeah!” Then he had to backtrack quickly because the girl didn’t get up. I thought that was pretty funny, seeing him withdraw his fist pump and then move into the concerned coach role, all while attempting to conceal his excitement.
Q: You worked in the college’s athletics office after your playing career concluded. How did your perspective change on college athletics with that, if at all?
A: I think after working in the athletic department, I got out of my athlete comfort zone and realized the immense amount of work that went into setting up all those games and functions where I just had to show up. Also, although I totally appreciated the Bench Club and fans from an athlete’s perspective, I think I was just missing out on this whole other world that I didn’t really know existed — how much these people really care and really just have so much pride being Greyhound and Zia fans and supporters.
I’m really glad that I was able to see that side of things because it gave me even a stronger appreciation of my experiences and just made me feel that much more blessed to have had the opportunity to be a part of this world and these wonderful people’s lives.
Q: Did you ever take a leap into coaching?
A: I coach volleyball camps during the summer, and I did coach club volleyball for a while, but I decided it wasn’t for me full-time. I suppose I might make a good assistant coach, but I believe I don’t really think like a coach, I think like a player and a fan. My coaching strengths lie with working with the younger kids — the fifth- through ninth- graders who are learning their skills and developing their mental strengths and learning the mental aspects of the game. I’m an excellent motivator and this age group responds really well to my personality and the positive nature of my interaction with them.
My absolute favorite is working with the girls who are learning their skills like serving over the net for the first time, or learning their hitting approach and they learn how to hit the ball or block and they get excited, but I think I get more excited than they do because I remember how it felt the first time I learned — and I love being a part of their joy in that regard. I guess that’s why I like the camps so much, because I can have a very positive impact on these girls in such a short time — and can really help them head in the right direction as far as being positive and learning how to overcome obstacles in their playing and even in life in general.
Q: What was the feeling like when you had sisters who played for the Zias, and what did you try to tell them about the process?
A: I have to say, playing basketball with my sister Sam was just about the coolest thing ever. We would fist bump after plays during games as kind of a play off the “Wonder Twins” cartoon that used to be on when we were younger. Before the game or standing at the free throw line, we’d fist bump and say, “Activate,” which was what those Wonder Twins said before they turned into something like an eagle or a tornado or something else amazing that would end up saving the town or saving the day in some form or fashion. Sometimes Sammy would add, “in the form of Jennifer Goble” and she’d laugh. I guess you’d have to see the show to understand, but she just had a way of making me feel like I was special and encouraged me in that way without even having to say it. I loved playing with her.
Having my younger sisters play was pretty cool, too. I think I had a little more impact on Margie as far as helping her with her college decision and her choice to come to ENMU. She is such an amazing person and she works hard and is very intense. I was able to help her understand and funnel that intensity, I think, especially in dealing with problems that came up and relationship issues. I could not be more proud of her for her hard work and how she persevered even though things didn’t always go her way. She learned so much about life and getting to be there to provide “big sister guidance” as she played totally spoiled me as well. Now that we live so far apart, I think of all that time we had together and it makes me all happy gushy inside.
Dorothea originally went to University of Central Oklahoma. When she transferred to ENMU, she regularly would crack jokes about how players from other teams would ask about me and tell her I was so nice, and her comments usually came with an eye roll or two. She and I have very different personalities on and off the court, so I didn’t get to “help” her as much, but I still enjoyed watching her play and being there for her during the times when she needed me. I guess I was being prepared for having teenagers of my own. We may not always see eye-to-eye, but I love my sister and wouldn’t trade our experiences at ENMU for anything.
Q: What was the feeling when you found out your jerseys would be retired?
A: I think the first feeling was shock — I was so surprised. Then the rush of thankfulness kind of overwhelmed me and I started crying. Having my jerseys retired is the ultimate validation that my hard work and all the things I went through from riding the bench for the first three years I played sports to standing shoulder to shoulder with some of the finest ladies I have ever met, to working at my alma mater and feeling the tradition and pride of ENMU supporters and fans from the first day I stepped onto campus in 1990. It was just a totally surreal feeling.
It’s hard to express the emotional stuff that goes along with it, but I couldn’t have been more proud to share that moment with my coaches too — especially Coach Moore, who brought me and my sister to ENMU to play.
The only thing I wish was that my coaches and mentors, Benny Stockton and Dan Buzard, would have been there to share this time with me. I am so glad I was able to spend my playing days with them and am honored to have known them.
I also wish my older sis had been there with me because she was such an integral part of my playing and growing experiences at ENMU. She made everything easier because she was my best friend and even though we fought quite a bit, she was ALWAYS there for me and I knew that no matter what, she would be.
— Compiled by CNJ staff writer Kevin Wilson and edited for length and clarity