When he was 16, Julio Arnaiz arrived in Miami knowing very little English and even less about volleyball.
Two years later, the 6-foot-4 athlete was a state champion at Miami Southwest High, part of that school’s acclaimed “Bald Eagles.”
“We were a tight-knit group,” Arnaiz said of the 2003 championship team. “We all shaved our heads because we were like one person, and we wanted to look the same.”
Now, one decade after the Bald Eagles, Arnaiz, 29, is in his second year as athletic director and girls’ volleyball coach at Miami St. Brendan’s, a private school just a few-minutes drive from Southwest.
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Arnaiz played three years of volleyball and soccer at Division II Mount Olive College in North Carolina. He finished up his college career as a defender on Barry University’s soccer team, earning a degree in business management.
During his year at Barry, he also served as an assistant boys’ volleyball coach at Southwest in 2008, when the Eagles again won state.
After graduation, he worked five years in the business field before the St. Brendan’s job opened up in August of 2012.
“I wasn’t expecting this opportunity — I applied, and I was lucky to get chosen,” Arnaiz said.
“As an AD, you are in both worlds — sports and business. There’s a lot of budgeting, planning and logistics, and I’m lucky they let me coach, too.”
Arnaiz said St. Brendan’s baseball team, which made it to the regional finals last season, is currently his school’s top athletic program.
His girls’ volleyball team finished 15-8 this year and 29-16 over his two seasons as coach.
Arnaiz also started a boys’ volleyball program last year and was thrilled when 40 kids tried out. This season’s team, coached by Freideman Sifontes, will be in the same district as Arnaiz’s alma mater, Southwest.
Other St. Brendan sports include cross-country, swimming, basketball, soccer, cheerleading, softball and track.
“This is a dream job,” Arnaiz said. “The challenge is putting St. Brendan’s sports on the map. That’s why I took the job — I like challenges, and I think we’re doing it little by little.”