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Academy for Technology and the Classics teams just want their own gym

February 11, 2019

Coach Anthony Moya illustrated the struggles of not having a place to call home for his Academy for Technology and the Classics boys basketball team.

When he starts his pregame talk with the Phoenix before home games at Nina Otero Community School, he has to use the clipboard he uses during the game to diagram plays and sets for his players to see because there is no whiteboard in the locker room.

“It’s just a road full of speed bumps,” Moya said. “When you have your home gym, you have that time, you have that stuff. You can get prepared.”

As the ATC boys and girls programs finish the season with just two more “home” games — on Feb. 16 against Tierra Encantada and Feb. 23 against McCurdy — they anxiously look forward to a brighter future because they will have a place to call their own by the start of the 2019-20 season. The school broke ground in December for an on-campus gymnasium, and it its completion is set for October.

If that timeline holds true, no longer will the Phoenix have to coordinate schedules and carpools for off-campus practices and games. They can begin the process of breaking in a place they can call their own.

“What I am looking forward to when we get our own gym is that first win that these athletes are going to put in that gym,” third-year girls head coach Mike Cintas said. “Putting in that first nail [in the wall], that first mark, that first time they hit the floor for a loose ball in our own gym, it will be something that this group of girls with the exception of two, are going to be able to say.”

ATC calls Nina Otero its home gym for games and occasionally practices. On Saturday, a mostly packed gym for a District 2-2A girls/boys doubleheader against Monte del Sol saw the girls down the Lady Dragons 44-26, while the boys were manhandled, 86-56.

The same can be said of the Institute of American Indian Art wellness center. That has been the nomadic culture the program since it became a varsity program in 2014. The teams have used Fort Marcy Complex, Christian Life Academy and Nina Otero, but the task of renting a facility can be daunting.

If the coaches and players are looking for any sympathy, they can find it within their own district. Of the five teams in 2-2A, only McCurdy has its own gym. The rest — ATC, Monte del Sol, Desert Academy/Santa Fe Waldorf and Tierra Encantada — make use of other facilities around town. Monte del Sol head girls coach Ray Roybal knows all too well the challenges of a perpetual life on the road, having coached at Desert Academy (before it formed a co-op with Santa Fe Waldorf), ATC and Monte del Sol.

“It is a lot harder to build a program when you don’t have a facility, and you don’t have equipment to get them prepared for the game,” Roybal said. “When I was at Santa Fe High [in the mid-1990s], we had access to Toby Roybal Gym. We had a weight room, we had a training room. We had all kinds of things where we could keep the girls active.”

ATC has faced the same kinds of struggle. Like showing up for a practice, only to wait for another event to finish. Or only being able to use one hour of a 90-minute allotment to practice because players have to dress and go through warmups. Or having to cancel practice because a facility isn’t available. And how about an offseason program?

“You have to come back and work twice as hard, because you didn’t have the space to be able to work like other teams,” junior wing Valeria Cera said. “It takes a lot of self-commitment. Like for me in the summer, if they cancel practice, it’s like, ‘OK, let’s go to Genoveva. It might be full, but we can work around all these people.’ Or, ‘Let’s go lift weights and get into shape.’ It does take a lot of time.”

ATC senior post Chris Brewer said Tim Host, the school’s athletic director, has worked diligently on making sure both teams have set practice schedules and venues in place, but sometimes the team has to take the initiative when the system breaks down.

“We always find a way to get together and practice,” Brewer said. “It’s just the mental strength of overcoming that.”

Moya, who was an assistant girls coach at Santa Fe Indian School, Española Valley and Santa Fe High before taking over the boys post in June 2017, said perhaps the most important thing about having a gym is that it gives the players and students ownership of something. It can set the groundwork for building strong, sustainable programs.

“That’s where you build a tradition, you build a culture,” Moya said. “You do have that pride to protect your house. Right now, we go to the gym or our practice gym, and we have to leave because college classes are starting. So we know it’s not our house.”

Moya, Cintas and the Phoenix are looking forward to the day when they can start making their gym their own.