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Open Mike

Good coaches tough to come by

We in the Lower Valley are fortunate to have several coaches who work year in and year out with our children.

I might as well start with Sunnyside High School boys soccer coach Juan Pineda. I first came across Juan, and I doubt he remembers it, while working at a newspaper in Toppenish. Juan was an assistant with the Wildcat soccer program. At one practice, Juan handed out this newspaper article from "The Oregonian," entitled "Toward a common goal." The article, which I still have today, highlighted the racial mixture of the Woodburn High School boys soccer team and how the sport of soccer brought them all together. It is a really good article that shows how we need to get past the stereotypes.

Sunnyside doesn't realize how lucky it is to have a coach like Juan. Juan not only has an astounding understanding of the game of soccer, but he has an amazing talent for getting youth to believe in what he says to work towards that one goal. Look how quick Juan turned around the boys soccer program from a cellar dwelling mess to a State championship caliber team. It is quite a common occurrence to go to practice and see Juan right in the middle of everything, showing players how to do something. That might be what we need more of, leaders who actually lead by example.

What would my list be without Sunnyside Christian High School boys basketball coach Dean Wagenaar. Dean is a very unique person, who in all honesty probably wouldn't know what to do if he had any spare time on his hands. Dean is an amazing leader of young men. He demands the best from his players 24 hours a day and that is what he gets. Ask some of this past season's championship team members what it was like for them after they suffered their only loss of the season to Riverside Christian. Put it this way, Sunnyside Christian didn't lose again.

I have long been a fan of Sunnyside High School girls basketball coach Leo Gomez. Leo is amazing because there aren't too many people who understand his coaching style. Leo has an astounding sense of faith in the abilities of his players to get the job done. Fans won't see Leo ripping off a tie or yelling and screaming on the sideline. Rather, Leo calmly stands there and lets things play out. The ability to believe in one's team is perhaps the best asset a coach can have. Leo definitely has that asset.

I am going to pair these next two gentlemen together. Sunnyside High School baseball coach Dave Martinez and Mabton High School baseball coach Kerry Snodgrass are very similar in coaching style. Dave is an enthusiastic leader, who can let an official know a thing or two about the wrong call, while Kerry is a wily veteran of the high school circuit, who can stand on the third base line and tell you every pitch that is going to be thrown. What I like about Kerry is his love of baseball, which after two decades of coaching, still shows. Dave is also much the same way. They both have an incredible passion for the sport they try to get across to their players in hopes of breeding success.

There is one lady in Grandview that is a coach of all trades. Anne Holden coaches the girls and boys soccer teams and is an assistant with the Grandview girls basketball program. Why I like Anne so much is that she is the type of coach who can't be kept down. Her philosophy is get right back at it. The ability to keep a team motivated, especially during trying times, is a unique quality that believe it or not many coaches lack. Anne encourages her players to have a good time and isn't that what sports is all about-fun.

I still hope George Paulus is coaching wrestling at the high school when my kids get there. George has a system and I don't quite understand it all. George's system works because no one hardly questions it. Why should we? After all, it is pretty difficult to question a system that breeds champions. I like George because he has a firm grasp of what it takes to be a champion, hard work, and that is what he tries to get across to his wrestlers.

I have long admired Grandview High School boys basketball coach Scott Parrish. Scott is the kind of man you want your sons to be around. He teaches young men the importance of having dignity in what they do. Scott lives and dies by the team concept of sports and it shows in his results. Look at what Scott has done in Grandview, the community has bought into the program. More than 100 people turned out to honor the Greyhounds at a spaghetti dinner after State.

My last coach ranks right at the top of my list. Sunnyside Christian girls basketball coach Al Smeenk. I was glad when I had the opportunity to cover the Lady Knights at State because it gave me a chance to work with Al again after a couple of years of not covering his teams. Al approaches things in an interesting fashion. Al is one of those people who never likes to reveal their hand before it's time. The day Al stops coaching will be a terrible day for high school basketball in the Lower Valley because Al brings an unbelievable attribute to the table, and that is passion. True passion for what one does is indeed hard to replace.

I guess my point is that sometimes we forget just how important the people who guide our youth are. We spend plenty of time complaining about what they do or don't do, but how often do we say good job. We don't say good job often enough and that is part of the problem.

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