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Books and insight from Hermosa Beach vollyeball player Sharkie Zartman

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Sharkie Zartman on familiar ground: a volleyball court on the beach.

Sharkie Zartman on familiar ground: a volleyball court on the beach.

Sharkie Zartman is a real go-getter:

“I love everything I do. I guess my theme is that you got to take control, you’ve got to be in charge of your life.”

If we’re looking for the quintessential beach girl, Sharkie’s one of our top contenders. With the exception of two years in Lubbock she lived in Manhattan Beach during her adolescence, and ever since she’s lived near the Strand in Hermosa.

“I am a total South Bay beach girl and I love living here,” she says while sitting outdoors at a local coffee shop. “Whenever we go anyplace on vacation, whenever we come back, we always go, ‘This is the best place!’”

Sharkie and her husband Pat have been married for 38 years. They have two daughters, Teri and Chrissie, and everyone in the family has been actively involved in sports.

Although occasionally she was teased about it as a kid, Sharkie is serious about her name. She’s even turned it into her philosophy, so to speak, with her book “Shark Sense: Getting in Touch with Your Inner Shark,” and it’s the essence of the show she’s been hosting on Healthy Life Radio called “Sharkie’s PEP Talk.” Her two newest books are “So You Think You Can Coach Kids?” and “There’s a Place.”

It’s your life, take charge

Closer to a short story than anything else, “There’s a Place” addresses the issue of advanced medical directives, those statements or documents that inform others of your wishes should you be incapacitated or on life support. In short, would you want to be kept alive or set free from your bodily woes?

“The reason why I wrote the book,” Sharkie says, was because “my sister was in a coma and we didn’t know whether or not she was going to make it back. It was scary. She was young and had a family. I remember hearing some nurses talking when they went by the meeting room. They said my sister’s name and they said, ‘There’s no way she’s gonna come back; and if she does she’d be a vegetable.’ It was just heartbreaking.

“When she was in the coma,” Sharkie continues, “I remember thinking, ‘I know she’s not asleep, I know she’s not dead, so she’s got to be somewhere.’ And so the place that I made up in the book was a place where I thought it would be cool if she was there.” Apparently not Lubbock, though. “Kind of like a limbo place where other people in comas in the hospitals around were, (each person) trying to see whether they were gonna come back from the coma or move on to the next existence.”

What drove the story was that, at the time, no one in the immediate family knew what Kathy would have wanted them to do.

“We were all trying to decide, if the time came, whether or not we should disconnect her from life support or allow her to go on and on like a lot of people do. We didn’t know what her wishes were – we were all trying to decide based on what we would do if it was us. Luckily, it never came to that point. She came back, and she came back better than ever.”

Sharkie thinks the story might be controversial, but it’s better to say that it’s merely thought-provoking. As for the near-death experiences inserted into the book, none of these were Kathy’s, and were fictionalized so as to further the point of the story – that whether it’s the right or wrong choice, it should be our choice.

“That’s one of the messages that I always try to get out to my students, (that) you got to be a powerful person, you got to be in charge of your life.”


Awards and accomplishments

Sharkie Zartman’s other book, which is actually due in a week or so, is called “So You Think You Can Coach Kids?” and it contains the accrued wisdom from her years as a player and a coach.

In high school, Sharkie says, she was actually better at basketball than at volleyball, but during her senior year she rounded up some gal pals and talked the football coach into coaching them as well. Years later she’d actually marry this coach – her husband, Pat, who now teaches at Torrance High – but that’s like telling you what’s in chapter seven while we’re still in chapter two.

Well, the coaching obviously went well because Sharkie went on to become a four-time USA National Champion in volleyball and a five-time All-American. While at UCLA she was on the first National Championship Team and an All-American, and, let’s not stop yet, named one of the 24 All Time Greats at UCLA for women’s volleyball, and – the cherry on the topping – a five-year WPVA Beach Volleyball Professional.

With credentials like that she landed a job at El Camino College and coached for ten years. During that time her teams won nine league titles, a pair of state titles, and three regional titles.

Then Sharkie gave birth to a couple of little sharkies of her own and traded in the athletic coaching for other classes – aerobic fitness and yoga and so on – so she could raise her family.

Well, flash forward a few years, and daughters Teri and Chrissie also wanted to play beach volleyball, and soon Sharkie and husband Pat had started – or rather re-started – the Spoilers volleyball club (the original Spoilers group was the one Sharkie helped to create in high school). Over the course of 11 years many local children participated and several went on to become more successful elsewhere.

“It was an education for us,” Sharkie says of their coaching experience. “I think we did a good job. I think we learned a lot.” However, she adds, “I was appalled by what I would see when we would go and compete: Some of these coaches, the way they treated the kids; some of the parents, they way they treated the kids. This is supposed to be fun for these kids!”

That’s why she wrote her book, which offers guidelines for coaching whether it’s a recreational team or one that’s more actively competitive.

“These kids are developing life skills by playing, and the coast is the one that teaches them that. I’ve seen some coaches, their language is terrible in front of these little kids; and the parents don’t stop it because they want their kids to be good in the sport.” In short, then, Sharkie says, “This is my effort in trying to put something out there that shakes people up and says, ‘Hey, if you (the parents) care so much about winning, why don’t you go out and play the sport? Why don’t the kids harass you when you’re playing the sport?

“We need to give the sport back to the kids; we need to let the kids be kids. The kids that want to compete and move up, it should be their choice; it shouldn’t be the parents’ choice.”

To succeed, or at least to advance, a young person needs positive self-esteem and good skills, Sharkie says, and the parents need to understand the rigors of competition. Lastly, they need a good coach, one who is aware of his or her responsibility: “All that has to happen or it’s not going to work.”


A word to the wise…

This is Sharkie’s 38th year at El Camino, but she did retire from teaching full-time last December. This has not only enabled her to spend more time with her family – including a grandchild as well as aging parents – but also to pursue her writing projects which, as some of us know, don’t write themselves even if we leave them milk and cookies.

One of her courses is devoted to staying healthy and eating well:

“I just love exposing my students to different idea on how they can lead a higher quality life. I said, ‘Health is in your hands, it’s not in the doctor’s hands, it’s not in the government’s hands. You have to do your part.’

“Today we were talking about nutrition and I said, ‘The food manufacturers don’t care about your health. What do they care about? They care about money. The government doesn’t care about your health. They care about money. If you care about your health you have to watch what you put in your mouth, and you have to be sure it fuels your life.”

While it’s too late for someone like me, because this plush couch sure feels comfortable, Sharkie often sounds like a motivational speaker and it’s hard to walk away from her and not feel inspired. Most people think in terms of what they can’t do, but that’s not how Sharkie swims:

“My dad always told me, you can do whatever you want so long as you work hard for it. When I was growing up there weren’t that many opportunities (for women). Most everybody I knew just wanted to get married and have kids. I wanted to play sports, I wanted to coach, I wanted to have a career. When my husband and I got married he said, ‘Well, you can quit now; we’ll just be on one income and we can have one car.’ And I [said], ‘Hell, no, I want my own car! I don’t want anybody to take care of me. I want to get in charge of my life.’

“And that’s what I’ve always told my daughters. I go, ‘Don’t you ever have anybody take care of you.’ I go, ‘You always make sure you have your own job and you can take care of yourself.’ That’s kind of my theme to everything that I do, being in power. Because most people will let other people decide for them. They’re just too afraid or wimpy to do anything about it, and then that’s their life. There are so many people like that it’s sad. I guess I just want to wake people up and say, ‘Hey, if you want a better life you’re the one that’s gonna make it happen.’”

Sharkie Zartman’s “There’s a Place” is available on Amazon and Kindle. “So You Think You Can Coach Kids?” is imminent, this month, and it’s her fifth book. Her radio show, “Sharkie’s PEP Talk,” is on Healthy Life Radio. For more information go to


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