Athletics can be both magical and educational. They instill confidence while teaching teamwork and personal responsibility. As a Lasallian Volunteer, coaching became my mechanism to bond with students and their families. I serve as a teacher, math tutor, breakfast server, and girls volleyball coach. Thus far, coaching has been challenging, but the most rewarding responsibility.
San Miguel is remarkably unique and inspiring when compared to most middle schools. The school calendar extends longer then public schools and the daily hours reflect an adult workweek. As a result, our students and faculty are exhausted by the day’s conclusion. This was a prime factor for the absence of athletics. Yet, our students are not only intelligent they also possess tremendous grit. Our “San Miguel Scholars” have to quickly mature because of their living arrangements. Some students work and help raise their siblings. Even though the school day is long, our students are capable and willing to join a team. Therefore, I was determined to help revive athletics.
Resurrecting an athletic program is time consuming and presents unforeseen obstacles. It’s easy to recognize and dwell upon unexpected events. The solution for success is to concentrate on the positive. Originally, my fellow LV and I were the assistant coaches. Our duties were to include advertising for the sport, providing transportation, and assisting the head coach. However, we were both promoted to head coach minutes before the first practice. Simultaneously, we learned the program needed poles, balls, kneepads, and other related equipment. Dwelling on the challenges would result in failure. Instead, focusing on the positive revealed that our team had the intangibles that money cannot afford. We have the support and faith of faculty, Christian Brothers, and students. Fortunately, an anonymous donor donated the equipment we needed. The girls were full of zeal, unyielding commitment, and eager to learn the game. Suddenly, this realization metamorphosed my fears into an explosion of possibilities.
As a result of the metamorphosis, being a coach became larger than I. My responsibilities were not limited to washing jerseys and providing transportation, but developed into a deeper obligation. Outside of school, many students are familiar with people not following through on their commitments. This would lower their self-esteem and leave goals unaccomplished. Since fall break was approaching, the girls would assume games and practices would cease during the week. Taking a rest period was tempting because it would soothe the stress from creating lesson plans, grading, and other rigors. However, I did not want to break that commitment. I wanted to impart the importance of persistence and following through on promises. Our founder, St. John Baptist de La Salle said, “preach by example, and practice before the eyes of the young what you wish them to accept”. The best way to teach these lessons was to model by example. Instead of stopping, we continued hosting practices and travelling to the games. I did not realize the wonders that would result because of this decision.
Suddenly, the sport began to soar by uniting the team and school. Our girls would practice with greater intensity and confidence. In games, they would serve one handed and be able to volley longer. More importantly, they were having fun and congratulating each other despite losing. In the beginning of the season, some families would stand near the gym doors and silently watch the games. As the season progressed, more of their relatives, teachers, and friends would support them at the matches. Suddenly, the stands would erupt in applause and cheers when our girls took the court. I affectionately nicknamed our supporters “The Armada” because our fans would fill the home and visitor stands. Volleyball was becoming an activity their families and friends could take pride in.
My final lesson was differentiating between winning and victory. Despite training hard, our team lost many games. The girls used to believe there are two outcomes in a game: winning and losing. This was my opportunity to introduce the third option: victory. First, I differentiated between winning and victory. I told them that winning is gauged by looking at the numbers on a scoreboard and being obsessed with personal statistics. A team is not comprised of numbers or individual honors, rather it is defined by its members. Thus, victory is more holistic. One must view the entire journey of accomplishing the goal in order to assess victory. At the season’s beginning, assembling a volleyball team was a fantasy. Instead our girls made it a reality by dedicating themselves after school and during weekends. Our girls never forgot that homework had precedence over athletics. This would motivate them to work harder and be more engaged in the classroom. Being a student-athlete reinforced the importance of attaining a quality education.
Even though the season ended, our girls continue to dream about the next season. The volleyball season was magical and created moments of laughter that will survive a lifetime. The girls remind me of the time, “Mr. Chavez was dancing to Maroon 5”, “pre-game meals” and the evolution of their talents. I am grateful for their faith in me as a coach and am proud of their accomplishments. I am proud that they recognize their unlimited potential and believe in themselves. More importantly, it was my honor to help them realize and accept that they are victorious.
Martin Chavez is a 1st year LV serving at San Miguel School in Tulsa, Oklahoma and is a 2014 graduate of Saint Mary’s College of California.