Coaches leave lasting impact
LAUGHLIN — High school sports players and participants get a lot of recognition throughout the season but the coaches who guide them to wins and teach them life lessons that translate to success are often overlooked.
Fall season’s sports include football, volleyball, cross country and cheerleading. While cheerleading isn’t considered a sport by the NIAA, the athletic element cannot be denied and the athletes are seen at all the home football games. Regardless of sport or style of approach, the fall coaches want to see their students succeed on and off the competition field. The four coaches tasked with fall sports focus more on developing a stronger sense of self, improving work ethic and teaching their athletes to enjoy the game than they do on winning. Winning will come naturally after their athletes have mastered the basics, they said.
“Probably the most I love about coaching is teaching those life lessons,” said cheer coach Kathy Mack.
Mack is the humanities teacher at Laughlin Junior Senior High School but her position allows her to teach some of the younger students also.
Empowerment and advocating for themselves is huge in Mack’s eyes regarding her coaching.
“I’d love to say what I teach most is cheer, but I don’t,” she said. “I teach advocating, responsibility.”
The cheerleaders get demerits when they don’t meet certain expectations and rules, said Mack. She doesn’t do it out of disrespect but out of “love and concern” for those girls, she continued.
“That’s part of life,” said Mack.
Being responsible and making good decisions is something that needs to happen long after high school, she said.
Learning about and taking pride in themselves and in school is definitely something that goes beyond cheerleading, said Mack. That pride means they take ownership of themselves and what and how they do things, she added.
Cheering is also about learning how to shake things off and not let negative experiences impact performance, said Mack. In the real world, that may mean not letting a bad experience in traffic impact how a person does in a job interview, she continued.
She recalled getting strong coaching when she was in school and how it helped her.
Mack began cheerleading as a sixth grader, she said, and cheered all through high school.
Eventually, Mack volunteered her time to help with cheerleading, she said, and after joining the Laughlin schools, she began coaching full-time.
“I had to get certified and go through all the training,” said Mack. “I had to learn to stunt all over again because stunting has changed so much since I was a cheerleader.”
There’s an ongoing education element to cheer coaching, she added.
“As a coach there’s still things that you have to constantly pay attention to,” said Mack. “You don’t think about the simple things ― there’s constantly paperwork.”
It means giving up things to be there coaching, said Mack.
“I’m fortunate my husband is super supportive of my coaching,” said Mack. “I wouldn’t be able to do it without him. I’m happy about that.”
Her husband isn’t the only one who supports her. Mack showed a lot of gratitude for her assistant coach Ashlyn Bilbray-Sainz.
The school supports the program and Mack is grateful for it. The support from the community has also been strong and she couldn’t be more thankful for that help.
Mitch Mulcahy loves running and Crossfit but it’s the values that go into being successful in those sports that he’s trying to instill in his cross country runners. He’s encouraging middle school students to be part of the program.
“I never ran CC in high school but it’s really one of the only competitive activities a person can do after college, he said. “I really enjoy getting after a 5k, 10k, or half marathon.”
Mulcahy started coaching junior high basketball and the team wasn’t as good as he’d hoped, he said.
He put in a lot of running that season and the athletic director noticed that and encouraged Mulcahy to coach cross country instead. So he did.
Running is a bit of a family tradition. After a Thanksgiving meal, he and the family will get up and go for a run, he said smiling.
But it wasn’t until after high school that Mulcahy got into running as a sport, he said. It started as a way to stay fit but Mulcahy realized it was a sport he could do long after and be competitive.
That love has translated into a business, Heat Wave Crossfit in Fort Mojave.
Fort Mojave Indian tribal chairman Tim Williams introduced Mulcahy to Crossfit several years ago, Mulcahy said. It’s been downhill ever since.
“I just hope I’m instilling the same values I’ve learned from my coaches,” said Mulcahy.
That sense of challenging oneself and competition help the athlete succeed in running, he said, but it goes beyond the course.
“There’s too many (lessons learned) to list, but an easy one (to name) is hard work,” said Mulcahy. “The harder the work, the bigger the payoff.”
Like being a teacher, it’s his job to help the athletes.
“It’s my job to get runners to grow. If I don’t see growth then I need to change something,” said Mulcahy.
Because Mulcahy has coached more than cross country, he can see certain values that are consistent in all sports.
“I love coaching in general,” said Mulcahy. “Cross country is awesome because it’s so easy to see an athlete’s growth.”
But while in basketball, adjustments can be made on the fly, in cross country all the preparation comes prior to the competition. Runners are on their own once the gun goes off, Mulcahy said.
Mulcahy tailors practices to what the athlete hopes to accomplish, he said.
If an athlete is out to run for college and beyond, he challenges that individual more and has them put in more miles.
If a runner is looking to get fit for another sport next season, like basketball, he tailors the practice to not put as many miles on that athlete, he said.
While Mulcahy helps runners find success through a sense of competitiveness, volleyball coach Bryan Crabtree encourages enjoyment of the game and focus to get the ‘w.’
Crabtree has coached volleyball for about 20 years, starting in college.
Growing up, he didn’t play volleyball, he said, there wasn’t a team but there was a volleyball club he participated in.
“I grew up playing volleyball at night in the subdivision and that’s were my love of volleyball comes from,” said Crabtree, who has worked in the Tri-state for 17 year. “Since I was eight years old, that’s what everyone did at night ― everybody met at the volleyball court and played all night long. It wasn’t organized but it was fun.”
Crabtree couldn’t quite put into words what draws him to the sport but he said it’s a lot of fun.
Volleyball isn’t a contact sport but there is a self-reliance that’s required that’s appealing, he added.
He’s trying to instill a love of the game, said Crabtree.
Someone once said to him that it looked like his team was enjoying playing and that’s what Crabtree wants to accomplish most, he said.
If the girls are relaxed and enjoying the game, they do so much better, he said.
“I can’t think of a player ever that’s played better when they’re angry,” the former River Valley coach said. “When they’re positive and upbeat, more gets done.”
Sometimes staying focused and relaxed can be difficult for high school girls. School, dating, parents, friends and other elements can sneak in and impact play, Crabtree said.
“I ask them to rely on each other and to work with each other to keep that focus and keep each other accountable,” said Crabtree. “Sometimes, they’re just off. It happens.”
Crabtree stresses the skill set and techniques of the game but he also tries to convey to the girls that their isn’t a lot of pressure to win so they should go out and simply enjoy the game, he said.
The teamwork element is something that goes from court to classroom to life beyond, said Crabtree.
“You have to be able to depend on your teammates and in life you have people in your life you depend on,” he said. “You have to be disciplined and work hard to get what you want, so those things all translate into life.”
In his fifth year in Laughlin, Crabtree said he can see the difference in the level of pride the students have in sports and school.
School spirit has grown exponentially and that helps students take some ownership of themselves and that translates into other successes such as on the volleyball court, he continued.
Crabtree said it’s his job to help students find their successes on the court and in the classroom. That will then mean finding success in college and beyond, he added.
What keeps him coaching?
“It’s just fun to work with the kids everyday,” said Crabtree. “We have really good kids over here and I really enjoy them.”
“I’ve been walking the football sidelines since I was five, since my dad was a high school football coach,” said football coach Tom Sattler. “I’ve been the ball boy, water boy, played four years of high school, played four years of college and one year as a student-coach. I’ve coached every year except one since 1998.”
He grew up with football and he believes it’s the ultimate team sport, Sattler said.
His football starters Diego Trujillo and Malik Ksouri aren’t going to get their yards without the guys up front and on the defensive side, all the players on the field have to carry their weight or the other team scores, Sattler said.
“It’s a huge character builder,” said Sattler. “I think there is so many life lessons tied into football ― handling adversity, hard work, overcoming obstacles, working together. It’s one of the greatest sports there is.”
Like Mulcahy, Sattler enjoys watching a player’s growth, a team’s growth.
The team may go from not knowing what I-formation is and they go from stumbling over each other to being able to do it seamlessly, Sattler said.
“Seeing the looks on their faces when that lightbulb goes on, or where they feel that success or taste that success, that’s it right there. That’s why I do it,” he said smiling. “Plus I get to be around football.”
It’s that same feeling in the classroom, Sattler said. Sattler is a teacher at Laughlin Junior Senior High School. He’s head coached on and off through the years and has had several successful seasons, earning championships.
The whole point of teaching is being able to see students figure out what it is a teacher is trying to get across, Sattler said. It’s cool getting to literally see that student figure it out because it shows up on his or her face, he added.
Sattler has coached football, volleyball, baseball, track and basketball through his years.
The connecting factor, despite being such varied sports, is the drive, said Sattler. Being able to show students that drive, that desire and pass it on to them is what makes coaches great, he continued.
Good coaches also focus on the details and show them the fundamentals of the game, Sattler said.
Clearly, having success in the classroom is necessary because students can’t participate if they don’t keep their grades up, so and grades come first, he said.
Leaning how to handle tough situations will follow these students for the rest of their lives, Sattler said. Winning is the goal but learning lessons about drive, perseverance and sportsmanship are more important because if players can’t handle it on the field, how will they handle it in the classroom or on a job, Sattler asked.
Sattler works to instill a strong sense of pride in the athletes’ town, school, family, teammates but also in themselves.
“Pride is huge,” said Sattler. “If you have a bad sense of self, it’s going to be very difficult to for you to be successful. You have to believe in yourself if you’re going to be successful.”