Shane Schwab learned from an email the reason for a conference with one of his player’s parents.
There was still no way to prepare.
“As a parent myself, the first thing was the uncertainty and fear,” the Broken Arrow boys varsity soccer coach explained about his face-to-face conversation with Jorge Chavez in May of 2019. “He was pretty emotional about it. I got pretty emotional about it. So much was unknown. It was just hard to believe what a 17-year-old kid was going to have to go through.
Ten months, five chemotherapy sessions and a litany of tests as long and deep as a traditional soccer pitch have passed. Senior Eric Chavez has beaten the cancer that stole some of his strength and stamina, but could not diminish his desire to get back on the field.
Schwab admitted to his uncertainty about Chavez’s return to the 2021 team. But return he has; being with the team in Alabama as they won the Southern Coast Cup. He also saw game action in wins over Bishop Kelly (Ricocheted a penalty kick to the wide side of the upper-90 right post), Sand Springs and Crooked Oak.
“It’s been great to see him get out on the field,” Schwab said. “Everyone is rooting for him.”
That everyone includes opponents. The Owasso Rams soccer coaches and players sent Chavez a video this week displaying their support for his battle with cancer.
Of course, no one could be more thrilled to see Eric play soccer again than parents, Jorge and Norma.
“It was pretty exciting that he was even able to play,” Jorge said. “In the beginning, I noticed he didn’t have that much stamina and was out of shape. When I see him playing, I know he’s not what he used to be. But to see him out there, he’s trying so hard. To me, he’s just playing so good.”
Eric is the second Broken Arrow soccer player in the family. His sister Paulina is now a senior at Northeastern State University. He also is the more quiet sibling.
“With the game, that is how I can tell he is excited, because he tells me everything he did on the field and how he has done.,” Jorge said of his son.
Amongst the family, the cancer discussion was kept to a minimum except when chemo treatment neared.
“My wife and I, sometimes bawl in front of each other, but in front of him we try to go with ‘everything is going to be okay,’” Jorge remembered the struggles of watching their son’s weekly stays in the hospital following chemotherapy.
“We would try to think that nothing bad is going to happen, but we would still think… ‘it’s cancer.’ We tried to not get into what could happen. We would try to act like this is just normal, that this is something that just happened. We kind of ignored it. Put it behind us.”
Eric Chavez was recognized with a
Dad and son agreed that it was the youngest Chavez who displayed calmness and showed no signs of worry. Eric simply smiled, laughed slightly and nodded when asked if he played the role of the family adult during the past 11 months.
“He is like, ‘don’t worry, Dad. I’ll do ok,’” Jorge said. “He’s just been tough. Just seeing him go through chemo, he doesn’t complain. Seeing him lose weight, it was devastating for me to see. It’s more that his future is going to change forever. That is what hits me every time.
“He’s been stronger than us. My wife and I have been a wreck. He’s even hated for us to ask him if he was okay.”
Eric’s response to his parents – “I’m fine” – was probably not much difference from any other teenage boys answer when queried about his well-being.
“They’d ask me if I was happy,” he recalled. “About what’s happening. If I’m feeling sad or anything.”
He reiterated: “I was fine.”
Eric’s approach to what he was going through left an indelible mark on his coach.
“He’s just been such an inspiration for us,” Schwab said. “I think we’ve learned humility. The way he goes about every single day. You wouldn’t even know he’s had cancer except for his bald head. He doesn’t complain, and I think he kind of puts everyone else’s problems in perspective. That’s the biggest thing we’ve learned. A tough day at practice, girlfriend problems, things like that are so minor compared to what he has had to deal with.”
As Eric’s strength and stamina improves, he continues to feel support from his teammates.
“They hype me up,” he said following an afternoon workout. “It’s weird. I’ve seen a side of people that I’ve never seen before. I like it.”
Like son, like father.
“One thing that we learned going through this is how many people care for Eric,” Jorge said. “I have to really thank Coach Schwab for all he has done for Eric. I really think Eric would have become depressed if he had not had the opportunity to participate in soccer. Just to see his face light up when he goes to soccer practice or on game night…that takes all my worries away.
“In one of the team’s meeting, coach got emotional talking about Eric. My wife and I, we just realized how many people care for Eric.”
Just completing a three-year run as the Broken Arrow Tigers starting point guard, George McCurdy still recalls some of the first words Coach Beau Wallace shared when he tasked McCurdy with taking the reins of directing the offense.
Wallace, who was named the 2021 Region 7 Boys Basketball Coach of the Year, continues to emphasize the words he told McCurdy in November of 2018.
The team’s best player, point guard and the head coach can never have a bad day.
“That was just my focus through the years,” McCurdy said. “I would try to lead my team every day; bring energy and try to get better.”
McCurdy also recalled how Wallace coached him through times that he wasn’t having the best of days or games and how two simple words of advice have guided him through struggles on and off the court.
“I remember as a sophomore, it was my first time playing against high-level competition,” McCurdy said. “We were playing Sand Springs and they were pressing us and my eyes were just wide open. I didn’t know what to do. I think I turned it over. He called a timeout and he was like ‘George, just breathe. Relax. You can do this.’ Ever since then, any moment of adversity, I just breathe and understand that I have the ability to do what needs to be done.”
The confidence Wallace instilled in McCurdy was passed on to 2015 BAHS graduate and now-Tiger eighth grade coach Trent Cantrell a few years earlier.
“The biggest thing, so far that I’ve learned (from Wallace) is just to have high expectations,” Cantrell said. “As a coach, it’s to hold your players accountable and don’t just let kids slide by.
“There’s no one else I would rather work for, learn from, or play for. When I was a player, and now that I’m a coach, I have the same respect for him.”
What Wallace, who also won Region Coach of the Year in 2017, said he has emphasized from day one with his players is to persevere in any difficult or challenging situation.
“I think it is so easy for kids to get frustrated and not go through the process or take the time to do that, whether that’s high school, college or life,” said Wallace, a 1997 BA graduate and guard on the Tigers only boys basketball state championship team. “It’s easy to go ‘ah, I’m going to quit and do something else.’ That’s probably the thing that I hope most of them have taken away, is to finish what you started. If you made a commitment to do something then do it, instead of finding a way to get out of it.”
Broken Arrow baseball and softball assistant coach Chabon Childers was named the Oklahoma Coaches Association 2020-2021 Region 7 Assistant Coach of the Year on Wednesday.
Childers, in his seventh year as a BA assistant, has proven to be a most-trusted lieutenant to Broken Arrow’s longest-tenured coaches – Shannon Dobson (Baseball) and Randall King (Softball).
“He’s so consistent in everything he does,” Dobson said. “He’s been a great coach for us, and I know it’s the same with softball.”
His willingness to coach the student-athletes beyond regular practice hours has not gone unnoticed nor is it underappreciated.
“He’s in here all the time working with kids; making them better,” King said. “The kids love him. He is willing to stay around and work with them after practice, no matter how long it takes. He’s definitely willing to put in the time and he knows his stuff about hitting.”
Dobson pointed out Childers connection with the athletes as a key to his success as an assistant.
“Kids relate well to him,” Dobson said. “He’s great communicating with the kids, especially in the hitting aspect. Guys understand him. He does a great job in that area.”
His dedication to his craft, Dobson and King claim, have been invaluable.
“Both of us couldn’t ask for a better assistant coach,” King said.
Before joining the Broken Arrow staff, Childers, who has near 25-years of baseball coaching experience, was a hitting instructor at Seminole State College, head coach at Cleveland High School and served as athletic director at Woodland High School.
For the second time in as many years, Broken Arrow’s Payton Hinkle was named the Oklahoma Gatorade Girl Cross Country Athlete of the Year.
The Tiger junior is a two-time state champion, winning this past fall’s championship with a time of 18:23.64, 10.7 seconds better than the second-place finisher.
Hinkle also won the Arkansas vs. Oklahoma All-Star Meet by 34 seconds. She was the 2019 Tulsa World All-Metro Female Athlete of the Year and is a finalist for the publication’s 2020 Girls Cross Country Runner of the Year award.
Hinkle is the school record holder in the 4K (14:35.90), 5K (18:03.44) and in the recent Broken Arrow Track Classic set the school record in the 3200 Meter Run with a time of 10:51.14.
The award, which recognizes not only outstanding athletic excellence, but also high standards of academic achievement and exemplary character demonstrated on and off the field, distinguishes Hinkle as Oklahoma’s best high school girls cross country athlete. Now a finalist for the prestigious Gatorade National Girls Cross Country Player of the Year award to be announced in April.
Hinkle has volunteered locally as part of multiple community service initiatives through her church. “Payton is an extraordinary person and athlete,” said Shane Messinger, BA head cross country coach. “She is a determined competitor who exemplifies how a relentless commitment to preparation can lead to great accomplishments.”
Hinkle also has maintained a weighted 4.38 GPA in the classroom
The Gatorade Player of the Year program annually recognizes one winner in the District of Columbia and each of the 50 states that sanction high school football, girls volleyball, boys and girls cross country, boys and girls basketball, boys and girls soccer, baseball, softball, and boys and girls track & field, and awards one National Player of the Year in each sport. The selection process is administered by the Gatorade Player of the Year Selection Committee, which work with top sport-specific experts and a media advisory board of accomplished, veteran prep sports journalists to determine the state winners in each sport.
Through Gatorade’s cause marketing platform “Play it Forward,” Hinkle has the opportunity to award a $1,000 grant to a local or national youth sports organization of their choosing. Hinkle is also eligible to submit a 30-second video explaining why the organization they chose is deserving of one of twelve $10,000 spotlight grants, which will be announced throughout the year. To date, Gatorade Player of the Year winners’ grants have totaled more than $2.7 million across 1,117 organizations.
Following two track meets in March of 2020, Scott Wilkinson and his Broken Arrow Tiger assistant coaches felt confident the boys could repeat as state champions and that the girls had a good chance of improving on their 2019 second-place state finish.
Then came COVID, which caused more agony than dropping the baton on the last pass of 4x100 relay that was sprinting at a record-breaking pace.
“That group of kids in ’19, and a lot of them came back in ’20 and were seniors, were an unbelievable group of kids to have,” Wilkinson said. “Everyone meshed well together.”
A year later, the Tigers again are meshing and performing well. The boys won Saturday’s home meet by nearly 50 points over second-place Union, while the girls finished in second, just two points behind Edmond Memorial. The BA Track Classic was just a week after one of the premier meets in the state at Edmond, in which the girls won and the boys placed third.
Wilkinson’s team’s performances were bookends for good news for Wilkinson received last week. He was awarded the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) 2019-2020 Oklahoma Boys State Track Coach of the Year.
“This is kind of the fruit that went into all that labor,” Wilkinson said, reflecting on the 2019 State Championship and the award.
The memories of the shortened 2020 season then crept back into his mind.
“One of the most disappointing things I ever had to do was tell those seniors, and the entire team, that the season was over,” Wilkinson said.
But now he has his Tigers running, jumping and throwing at a high level again.
In just his second season, not only had Wilkinson coached Broken Arrow to its second boys state track championship, he increased the student participation level to no heights. The combined boys and girls numbers in 2018 were nearly 30 athletes higher than the previous season. Those numbers have been sustained even through a pandemic.
“When I first got here, the numbers were super low,” Wilkinson said. “The expectations on what we could do, just from the kids, the belief wasn’t there. It just took us going and having a little bit of success. It started adding up and that kind of got these kids believing ‘hey, we can compete for conference, regionals and state championships.’ I think we’re kind of there as a program now.”
BA TIGER TRACK CLASSIC NOTES
Two school records were set at Saturday’s meet: Payton Hinkle broke her old record in the 3200 Meter run with a time of 10:57.14. She set the old mark of 11:00.69 as a sophomore in 2012. Abigail Lasiter broke a 24-year-old record in the Discus with a throw of 130’02’’. Joslyn Ross set the school mark of 125’3” in 1997.
Other Broken Arrow winners from Saturday’s meet include the Girls 1600 Sprint Medley Relay (Niomee Casey, Tabitha Daniels, Melanie Wills and Kaiden Sedlak), 4:20.18; Boys 4 x 800 Meter Relay (Luke Huke, Ryan Norsworthy, David Joseph and Cody Arnold), 8:12.17; Boys 3200, Blake Feron, 9:45.77; Boys 400 Meter Dash, Mikehl Marion, 52.22; Boys 300 Meter Hurdles, Zach McGowan, 39.83; Boys 4000 Meter Distance Medley Relay (Luke Hook, Cody Arnold, David Joseph, Ryan Norsworthy), 10:58.73; Girls High Jump, Kyra Heald, 5’03”; Boys Pole Vault, Crayton Shaw, 14’06”; and Girls Shot Put, Abigail Lasiter, 40’00”.
Near the final turn of the girls 3200-meter run, Tabby Daniels leads a chorus of encouraging cheers, pushing Broken Arrow Tiger distance runners toward the finish line. She then rushes to the high jump pit to offer a friendly smile, words of inspiration and congratulatory applause after a successfully executed Fosbury Flop. The scene is played out consistently through the day’s events and at each track meet in which the Tigers participate.
“One of my teammates was like ‘Tabby, what are we going to do without you next year; you being so positive and all?”
Daniels shared that memory during a round-table discussion with members for Broken Arrow Athletic Department’s Senior Athletic Leadership Council (SALC) at the group’s monthly meeting this week.
SALC is a group of senior athletes, selected by their coaches, who meet monthly to learn and discuss effective team building strategies such as encouragement and character with the district’s athletic administration.
“It was really a refresher for me learning about the importance of words of affirmations for teammates,” Daniels said in reference to a meeting in the fall. “I don’t like negative talk at practice or anywhere. I try to be the most positive person ever. When I’m positive then everyone else is positive and it keeps going.”
Senior wrestler and golfer Blazik Perez observed the contagiousness of positive words on teammates.
“I try to apply words of affirmation in a light-hearted positive way,” he said. “Even though it may not seem like a big deal, you never know how it’s going to touch those underclassmen who are looking up to you.
“As a senior you only get one time to be a leader. The Athletic Leadership Council gives us advice to execute that in the best way that we can.”
Another two-sport athlete, Jaiell Talley, also noticed the lasting impact positive words could have within a team setting.
“Positivity goes a long way,” the Tiger football and basketball player said. “You never know what someone is going through. Sometimes they just need someone to be there to give them a little encouragement.”
While the high school team experience is nearing a close for the Class of 2021 athletes, the lessons learned from being a part of SALC offers a long-lasting imprint on the influence encouraging words and wise choices can have on yourself and those around you.
“There are great opportunities in life and this is definitely a great opportunity,” Talley said when asked what he would tell junior athletes about his time as part of SALC. “You’re one decision away from a completely different life and this is one that can greatly affect your future. It’s about applying what you have learned to your daily life, whether it be family, friends or complete strangers. You can be a leader in many different ways and not even know it.”
SALC was imminent in the development and growth of aspirations for Perez and self-edifying for Daniels.
Perez: “This opportunity has given me the confidence to go for those big dreams. I’m not afraid to go for those colleges that offer the highest educational opportunity because this group has made me feel special enough to do that.”
Daniels: “It is your coach choosing you. You learn aspects of leadership to take back to practice and share with other people.”
For Daniels, there is no doubt that what she shares is something extremely positive.
Broken Arrow Public Schools announced the hiring of Shane Coffey, associate head coach of women’s basketball at the University of Tulsa, as its new girls basketball coach at a press conference today.
Before joining TU in 2011, Coffey served 11 seasons as the head girls basketball coach at Edmond Memorial High School. He compiled a 196-86 record while leading eight of his teams to the regional championship. Coffey’s teams advanced to the state quarterfinals six times (2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2010 and 2011) and played in the state semifinals in four of those seasons.
“The thought of being back in the high school game in Oklahoma is exciting,” Coffey said. “Oklahoma has always been well-respected by college coaches because of the quality of coaches here and their innate ability to develop their players. I can’t wait to be a mentor and ambassador in the Broken Arrow school district and community. Our program will strive for excellence in all that we do on and off the court.”
Coffey was named the Regional Coach of the Year three times and twice was selected as the Mid-State Conference Coach of the Year. He helped 24 of his players earn college scholarships, including five at Division I schools.
Coffey was also an assistant boys basketball coach at Edmond Memorial High School for four years (1996-2000) and was the head boy’s coach at Edmond Central Middle School for two seasons (1994-96).
As part of the TU staff, Coffey has coached six all-conference performers, three all-Freshmen team selections, three all-tournament team honorees, and one Sixth Man of the Year selection. He helped lead the Hurricane to the 2013 Conference USA tournament championship and an appearance at the NCAA Tournament.
Coffey received his bachelor’s degree in social sciences and education from Oklahoma State in 1994.
He and his wife, Kerri, have a son, Hayden, and a daughter, Emersyn.