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YUHSD boasts record number of alums holding varsity head coaching roles

From coaches to teachers to administrators, Yuma Union High School District leadership has long believed in growing future employees from within. That belief has never been more evident than in the number of varsity head coaches and campus athletic directors serving in their roles during the 2019-20 school year.

Out of 82 varsity head coaches, including those who coach multiple sports in the district, 38 (or 46.3 percent) graduated from a YUHSD school. That number is higher than any other time in the district’s 110-year history, and includes at least two graduates from all five comprehensive high schools.

coaching alumni “It’s a great thing,” said Kofa High School baseball coach Richy Leon, who graduated from Kofa and is one of the longest tenured alums among head coaches in the district. “I think it speaks a lot to the sense of pride that people have to come back and give back to our community and be involved with families. Some of us have had the opportunity to not just come back to the district, but come back to the school’s that we’ve left, so it’s kind of neat. I think it just speaks to the great state of our district.”

Leon is one of five varsity baseball coaches in the district, all of whom once played for a YUHSD program. The group also includes San Luis High School’s Cesar Castillo (Yuma High School), Gila Ridge High School’s James Kuzniak (Cibola High School), Cibola’s Larsen Jones, and Yuma High’s Nick Johnson (Yuma).

“I know I’m the old guy,” Leon said. “It just speaks volumes about the level of baseball here and guys wanting to come back and give back to the sport that they love. We love to compete against each other.”

While baseball is the only sport where every varsity coach is a YUHSD alum, there are several schools who boast multiple alums. A dozen current district coaches graduated from Kofa, while Cibola employs the second most alums with 10. The newest school in the district, Gila Ridge, which opened in 2007, has three former Hawks coaching in the district, including San Luis boys basketball coach Marcus Weeks, Gila Ridge girls wrestling coach Summer Ehrig, and Gila Ridge boys wrestling coach Abel Villa Moreno.

“Once I went off on a scholarship to wrestle and continue my academic and athletic career, I just learned so much from my teammates from all over the country and my coaches,” said Villa Moreno, who is in his second year. “I’m a person who loves learning and coming from hard work, so learning everything that I did I wanted to come back to the community and give back. I had good coaches when I went to Gila Ridge and I knew how much of an impact they made on me.”

Paying their experience forward is something that seemed to be a common thread for most of the coaches who returned to the Yuma area.

“We feel like we can make an impact because coaches and teachers had an impact on us,” Leon added. “I think a lot of people can attest to that. You want to be that same person [for others] and hopefully touch the lives of someone and impact the way that your life was impacted.”

For Villa Moreno, it is also about thriving in a town that values community and togetherness.

“It shows how much we work together,” Villa Moreno said. “Even though we have our rivalries, it shows really how tight this community is and how much of a family we are as a city.”

Here is the full list of coaches and athletic directors who graduated from YUHSD schools with their former school in parenthesis:

Cibola

Brett Pavey (Kofa), Tayde Lund (Cibola), Kris Norton (Yuma), Daniel Villalpando (Cibola), Andres Preciado (Cibola), Vicente Guerrero (Cibola), Larsen Jones (Cibola)

Gila Ridge

James Kuzniak (Cibola), Tricia Ellsworth (Kofa), Joe Daily (Kofa), Abel Villa Moreno (Gila Ridge), Summer Ehrig (Gila Ridge), Courtney Reed (Yuma)

Kofa

Maria Janosky (Yuma), Patrick Hardin (Cibola), Amanda Garcia (Kofa), Rochelle Baldwin (Yuma), Makyla Orman (Kofa), Jamie Nicewander (Kofa), Santos Rangel Jr. (Kofa), Richy Leon (Kofa)

San Luis

David Barrios (Cibola), Maria Dillard (Kofa), Ricardo Villa (Yuma), Cesar Castillo (Yuma), Zach Kelly (Kofa), Marcus Weeks (Gila Ridge), Carlos Ambriz (Cibola), Gerardo Huerta (San Luis), Albert Escalante (Cibola), Aylin Gutierrez (San Luis)

Yuma

Karina Guerrero (Yuma), John Baldwin (Kofa), Nick Johnson (Yuma), Ernesto Mendoza (Yuma), Michael Moreno (Kofa), Shawn Doerr (Yuma)

Eric Patten
epatten@yumaunion.org