I remember the day as if it was yesterday. I got a call from San Pasqual District Office at the end of September 1977 asking me if I would be interested in a position at their school teaching physical education grades 7-12th. I said, “Sure, when do you want me to come and interview?” Within the week, I had an interview and I was offered a job. Missing the first month of school is never great for a teacher, but it was a beautiful October morning when I drove up and parked in front of San Pasqual Junior-Senior High School determined to make a difference. Little did I know that my life was going to be changed forever.
San Pasqual High School is a small high school on the southeastern side of California, right across the Colorado River from Yuma, Arizona. I always wanted to teach at a high school but my first job in Oregon was at an elementary school, grades 1st through 8th grade. I had coached 7th & 8th graders for two years and I was ready for the challenge of high school. I was excited about the possibilities of coaching basketball and softball because both were my strengths in college. By mid November, it was time to start girl’s basketball and about 15 girls showed up for our first practice. The years may cloud the distinct memories of what happened that first season, but my heart remembers quite well.
A month into my new teaching job and coaching, I was just starting to feel the girls trusted me. As their coach I believed we had all the ingredients for a team that could go all the way to state and all I wanted was a commitment from my players to do their best, be their best and believe they were the best. But we did not have the best conditions to think we had a shot at being the best team in the small AIAA league. We had no decent uniforms, nor socks or shoes or sweats and we practiced at the Community Center that had a cement floor with tile layed over it. When I look back and compare what high schools have now, we definitely overcame obstacles that were common in girl’s sports in the late 1970’s.
The 77-78 team players were Seniors Leona Jose and Patty Ortega. Juniors Cindy (Sam) Williams, Sandra Pruitt, Bernie Bouts, Gloria Derma. Sophomores Susan Montague, Ernie Montana, Dorinda Townsend. Freshman Danell Pastores and Kelly Gourley. Our manager was Marciela Ortega.
Softball was next and again the enthusiasm from our terrific basketball season carried over to our softball team. By now, they knew I cared about them and wanted them to feel the pride that comes with believing in unity of a team, being there for each other and caring for each other.
We had a few other girls join our softball team that didn’t play basketball. Celia Espino, Helen Spencer, Yolanda Polk, Armida Marron, Lisa Foster, Holly Dunnagan, Jeanette Peterson and Ellen Crawford. Melvin Pastores was my assistant coach and Cathy Burlingame was our score keeper.
I was impressed by the commitment of these girls, seeing their need to feel like they had something to contribute and to be recognized for their efforts was the beginning of my life being changed. And now 40 years later, these “kids” are all grown up, have kids and grandkids and at a reunion a few years ago, we reunited and it was so rewarding to know that what took place at this small high school, had years of impact on many of their lives.
In my next blog piece, I will share about the changes in the 1978-79 season and what changed and how we became state champs in both basketball and softball and volley ball.