Monday, December 9, 2013

The Gift of Sport: De La Salle Athletic Director Leo Lopoz

Ever growing in popularity, rugby is DLS' 14th team
At the conclusion of my bi-weekly prayer group are "action items" to pray with and consider implementing. In the spirit of Advent, this week's challenge was: When you give presents this Christmas, consciously select gifts that build up others are Children of God. Of course the thought that came to mind was none other than the gift of sport. And the person who came to mind was a friend I turn to from time to time for input and and advice, De La Salle High School's Athletic Director—Leo Lopoz.

At a ceremony honoring Spartans' basketball coach Frank Allocco's 600th victory, I asked Leo about their rugby team—a sport that continues to grow in popularity and recently became the school's eighth sport offered in the Spring season. I wanted to know how he was able to add yet another program. Without hesitation, Leo said, "Whatever we can do to get more kids involved in school athletics, I'm all for it. It's not that much more work on my part, and yet the return is so valuable. Teams facilitate friendships, opportunities to learn from coaches and one another. I'd like to add even more if possible."

It was exceptionally hard to find
a photo of Lopoz, which says a lot
 about him. Doing the work...!
Wow. While many schools are cutting programs and adding administrators to handle the red tape, here was Leo—who also coaches boy's golf in the Spring—giving his time, energy and passion to making the gift of sport a reality for more students. 

One of the reasons I was drawn to St. Ignatius where I have taught for the past 11 years is because it offers a comprehensive crew program for boys and girls. The boathouse and Lake Merced serve as a second home for many students—good, bad and otherwise. While I had the difficult task of having to make cuts for novice girls rowing, I had the other task of managing 80 girls who came out for cross country. It is one of the few "no cut" teams, I saw first hand that XC was a haven for any athlete who was willing to put in the time, miles and effort. What I saw on both teams was the birth of friendships, the challenge of maintaining others, the pursuit of goals, the realization of dreams, the beauty of the strife, and the spirituality of it all. I truly believe my role as a coach was to build up my athletes are Children of God. I'm grateful for the gift of sport.

This gift, like many others, doesn't happen without generosity. And I would like to think in addition to their athletics programs success, one primary reasons Leo Lopoz was named the 2013 California State Athletic Director of the Year (North Coach section) was in large part to his generosity. Managing 14 programs that comprise 28 total teams (freshmen, jayvee and varsity levels) over three seasons is a task. Just for fun—the teams are Fall: football, cross country, water polo; Winter: soccer, wrestling, basketball; Spring: swimming & diving, track & field, lacrosse, tennis, volleyball, baseball, rugby, golf.
I think Lopoz has won this award twice....!
Although the title of AD is rather prestigious, many of the responsibilities that accompany the job are not. Hiring and firing of coaches, acquisition of field and play space, securing transportation and officials, arranging for the appropriate security at games not to mention the sheer paperwork involved is taxing. An athletic director's goal is to allow his or her coach to coach—and this might mean trekking down a 15-year old for the rest of the necessary paperwork.  Or, making sure all coaches' fingerprints are on file—it's a different world that we live in today.  I have no doubt an AD often feels like a compliance officer.  They must wonder from time to time—Did I really sign up for this?

I have no doubt that parents feel that same way. And yet, parents go to great lengths to give what is best for their child. And in that way, I am affirmed, excited and grateful for the work Leo continues to do what he believes is best for his alma mater: giving the gift of sport. 

My favorite part about writing this was finding out from Leo that De La Salle has added ice hockey and Badminton as club programs. Simply awesome...inspirational...Les Hommes De Foi: Men of Faith.

Photo Credits
CSADA Winner
AD Photo
Rugby Team

No comments:

Post a Comment