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Home | News | Video+Story: In Victory or Defeat, Westside Eagles Soar

Video+Story: In Victory or Defeat, Westside Eagles Soar

Growing up, I didn’t want to play sports. Just wasn’t my thing. I would have rather stayed at home, drawing, writing, or working on that “great American novel” idea I had when I was ten.

Sports? Didn’t want it.

Still, I was dragged out of the house to play baseball, then flag football because my father failed at sports as a kid and had hopes he could live vicariously through me. Yep, I’m just a little salty about those years of my life, but I’m bringing them up to make a point.

Even though I didn’t like playing sport, it didn’t mean I didn’t like covering the games then, or now. I love how most of the kids are out there to have fun. Most of them know that they are not going to get into Major League Baseball or the National Football League.

That’s not why they play.

Then there are those kids like I was, forced to play some sport. Maybe their father just missed being a starter. Maybe they were good, the fathers, but only got as far as high school games and never made it onto a college team.

Whatever reason, they are the ones pushing their kids to play. I see that, not too often, but I see it. The parents who do this, who push their kids to play even though they don’t want to, are the ones who take all the joy of the game.

I’ll give you a couple of examples:

I’ll start with an incident that involved cheerleaders. I was at a game, and I won’t say what school when the cheerleaders from both teams got together and began to cheer with each other. Then, they decided to go and cheer for the other team. It happens at a lot of games. Cheerleaders from team A will go and cheer for the fans of team B. Everyone likes it, everyone cheers, everyone is happy.

At this one game, when the home cheerleaders came to visit for the visiting team, the received boos. Those girls, as they walked away, looked sad. Very sad.

Or, how about a game I was covering where the parents were yelling at their children during the game, and at halftime? Parents telling their kids that if they didn’t play harder, they would walk home. Telling them they were worthless, and more. I was beyond angry. I felt sorry for those kids. I almost cried right along with many of them.

Then, at halftime during the Henry Stokes Little Bowl, I saw that ray of hope!

“I don’t care what that score says,” the coach of the Westside Eagles said to his team as the pointed to the scoreboard at Del Valle’s Conquest Stadium. “You are already winners. You made it here!”

The kids cheered.

The coach is Lorenzo Ruiz. That was the first time, in their fourteen years, that they made it to Little Bowl. It was right then and there, just before the second half of the game started, that I decided to meet with them, and tell their story.

“We’ve been doing this, this is our fourteenth season, fourteen years,” says Coach Ruiz.

The coach doesn’t have any kids, or grandkids on the team and I wondered why he was out there, coaching.

“We enjoy it. It’s fun — the kids. I like how to see them grow up. And we get to see them play here in the varsity when they grow up and make it to the varsity team,” he says.

Coach Ruiz has a different style when it comes to coaching. After meeting with the kids on his team, during the Little Bowl and when they were at practice, it was a style I could see working!

“I guess cuz of the kids, cuz most of them we’ve had them since they were five-years-old,” says Coach Ruiz. “Also, not to get them down. Once you start yelling at them too much and putting them down, they are not going to produce. They are not going to have fun. The thing is having fun and learning the game.”

Coach Ruiz, Jr., coaches right along with his dad. Was he mad that they didn’t win the Little Bowl?

“Just reaching that game is a big accomplishment,” says Ruiz Jr. “It’s more of them knowing that all their hard work they reached that game.”

Talking with both coaches, I discovered that they wanted their kids to enjoy the moment, to enjoy each game they were playing. Yelling and screaming would detract from that. It would also stop the message they were trying to impart from being understood by each player.

“I hope they take, as far as getting to play with other kids, that it takes a whole team. That they learn about leadership, and how to follow as well,” says Coach Ruiz. “Try to achieve as much as they can.”

Coach Ruiz, Jr. hops they will learn discipline and how to make and obtain goals.

I spent about an hour with the players and coaches during one of their practices as they prepared for a tournament this weekend. (I did want to cover them as they tried for the city bowl this weekend, but other commitments kept me away). The kids were amazing. They knew what they had to do, where they had to be, and they were ready.

They were also encouraging each other and having fun.

Talking with a few of the players, I think the lessons have not only been heard but become part of their daily lives as well!

“I play because I just like the sport,” says Matthew, quarterback and a running back and future plastic surgeon. “It’s my way of letting out stress, play and have fun.”

Even at eleven, Matthew thinks about injuries. What else would a future doctor worry about?

“What I dislike about it {football} is the fear of getting hurt,” he says. “A lot of things can happen as in head injuries or neck injuries. But other than that, I like playing the sport.”

Austin, an eleven-year-old defensive end loves the game.

“It’s just a fun game to play,” says Austin. “It’s very physical, and you get to work with your teammates.

Austin sees football as something he’ll do when he gets older.

“It could be a choice, but I would rather play basketball,” he says.

He also wants to be a teacher at Canutillo High School. Austin says his fifth-grade math teacher; Ms. Covarrubio is the one who has inspired him to teach in the future. After talking with him, I can tell you, Austin will be a teacher!

Joseph plays tight-end with the Westside Eagles.

“I like getting active, and hitting and just running around,” says Joseph. “I plan to become a star in school.”

What does he get out of playing football?

“I don’t sit at home,” he says. “I stay healthy.”

Getting out and being active in the age of video games, Facebook, is important. When there is a kid involved, it can be a battle getting them out the door. That was the case with Joseph who says that he would play a lot of video games.

“My dad wanted me to get more active,” he says. “I didn’t like it at first. But I started learning to play football again. Now, I like it. I would rather play football then video games.”

My dad, back in the late seventies and early eighties could have learned a lot from these guys. A lot of parents, coaches and athletic directors could learn a lot from just sitting and talking with the Westside Eagles. They would learn to find what it means to be a kid again, to have fun again.

They might even turn down the anger when that catch isn’t made, or the ball is just short of that critical first down.

Coach Ruiz gets the last word on this one:

“Be patient with them, have fun and try to learn as much as you can. I want them to learn, get better, like the game and continue playing.”

Before you go, take a few moments to watch the video attached above. It’s only nine minutes long.

***

Follow Steven Cottingham on Facebook  |   Twitter Instagram

About Steven Cottingham

Steven Cottingham is a writer, photographer, and poet. In addition to his work for the El Paso Herald-Post, he is a videographer for AJ+, is launching a weekly podcast based on his forthcoming book, “Leap of Fatih” which will be released November 2018 from HarperCollins. Through his company, Still Going Somewhere, he is producing a series of micro-documentaries with individuals who have survived the Holocaust. You can contact Steven at 915-201-0918, or by email at steven@epheraldpost.com. To learn more about Steven, visit his webpage at www.StillGoingSomewhere.com

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2 comments

  1. Steve Mr. Ruiz was one of my foremans before l retired from El Paso county roads and bridges dept. he has always been a go getter giving praise and always complimenting his employees a family man a great citizen he is a great asset to his community always being there volunteering, his football program is awesome always teaching just do your best never give up there are handful of people with his king of leadership quality. l wish l could go on and on many memories to talk about Lencho Steve if you need more info of Lencho please let me know thank you 915 329 8284 proud to have had him as an employee l will post what comment l made after the game 👍

  2. One team asks 6 yo kids, before a game:

    What is football?

    The kids yell, PAIN as the answer.

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