Malibu High hires former All-American as new volleyball coach

Airess Padda comes to Malibu having won two league titles as an assistant at Sierra Canyon. 

Swapping experience for youth, Malibu High School Athletic Director Chris Neier announced last week the hiring of Airess Padda as the school’s new boys and girls volleyball coach, replacing longtime coach Carlos Gray. Gray resigned in late July after 12 years with the Sharks to become the new head coach for the boys and girls program at Pacific Palisades Charter School. 

“Airess brings in great volleyball experience and she has already brought outstanding energy to run the program in just the first week of practice,” Neier said. “She’s a great addition to our coaching staff and Malibu High School.” 

Padda, 28, was the assistant coach for the Sierra Canyon High School girls volleyball team from 2009- 2012. Sierra Canyon won league titles in 2010 and 2011 and in both years were CIF runner-ups and State qualifiers. 

Last season the Trailblazers finished 20-8 and reached the CIF semifinals. Padda was also an assistant for the women’s team at East Los Angeles Community College in 2008. 

“I am really excited,” Padda said. “I’ve been an assistant coach for about five years. I feel like with all the hard work and experience that I have under my belt, it’s my time right now.” 

Padda takes over for Gray, who began coaching both boys and girls volleyball at Malibu in 2001. Gray was popular among his players with his kind and outgoing personality. He led the girls program to two league titles in 2001 and 2007 and the boys to a league championship in 2002. 

Gray described his decision to leave as the “toughest” he has ever made in his coaching career and an “opportunity that I couldn’t pass up.” 

“This was the most difficult decision I have ever made in my 26-year coaching career,” Gray said. “I am still in contact with a large number of my former players and they have been supportive of my decision,” Gray said. 

Gray said the decision to leave came down to it being “time for a change,” both for the Malibu program and for him as well. 

“Sometimes it takes a new voice and vision to take things to the next level,” Gray said. “They have a great new coach. I feel I have left the program in a better place than I found it. Malibu High will always be very special to me. I will never forget my time there.” 

Gray’s athletic director applauded his commitment to Malibu, as well as his professionalism and integrity in leading both MHS programs. 

“Malibu High School would like to thank Carlos Gray for the many years of being an outstanding coach and mentor to our student athletes,” Neier said. 

When Gray informed Neier in late July of his move to Palisades, Neier acted quickly and sought out a strong coach for the open position. Within a couple weeks, Neier had received several endorsements for Padda, who had just agreed to become an assistant coach at Chaminade during the summer. Her desire to be a head coach for the first time was too valuable to pass up, and the rest was history. 

“I feel we have a great group of girls,” Padda said. “I’m just excited to see our growth. This is a foundation to building a very successful program and I am just super excited that I have this opportunity to do so.” 

In addition to her five years of coaching experience, Padda was a two-time Division II All-American middle blocker for Cal State Los Angeles in 2005 and 2006. She won the prestigious Billy Jean King award at CSLA. 

With the volleyball season now underway, visitors to the MHS gym should not be surprised to see Padda at practice proudly wearing her 2013 State Championship basketball ring that she won as an assistant coach at Sierra Canyon. 

“I want to play at a high level every game,” Padda said. “Compete, compete, compete is one of my biggest things. If I can walk away from a game as a coach knowing my team competed at a high level and we gave it our all and we still lost, to me it’s not really losing. It’s that we actually gained something. I want them to walk away from every match knowing they competed.”