Gutierrez Athletics: Teaching students life skills through sports


A key concept among successful athletes is persistence – which incidentally, also happens to be essential to attaining success in life. Coaches at Gutierrez Middle School aren’t just showing students the ropes when it comes to competitive athletics, but they are teaching students skills they will carry well beyond the sports arena.

Last summer, as Joe Zuniga prepared to compete for the starting quarterback position on the Gutierrez football team, he learned first-hand that persistence and hard work could go a long way.

“I started off not playing as much. I was a quarterback, but this year I pushed myself and became the team’s starting quarterback,” said Zuniga. “In football, we’ve learned to work together as a unit, never to give up, and always take that extra rep. We do as much as we can for our team members on the field and put forth the effort. That helped us win district this year.”

The same spirit of determination that carried Zuniga’s team to a successful season is evident throughout other sports at Gutierrez and carries into the classroom.

“Everything we instill on the court our students can take into the classroom and life,” said Jessica Forshee girls’ basketball coach. “That is our ultimate goal as coaches, to teach these kids to be model citizens when they grow up.”

“Being in basketball keeps me motivated,” said Jessica Lopez. “I have to have good grades to play, so I’m always studying or go to tutoring when I need additional help.”

Student athletes at Gutierrez are expected to be leaders on their campus and to demonstrate a strong work ethic in and out of the classroom.

“We know that as student-athletes we are held to a higher standard,” said eighth-grade student Cassandra Rodriguez. “I always try to come to school with a positive attitude and just apply what I’ve learned in the sport to help me become a better student.”

Transitioning from middle school to high school sports can be a very humbling experience as students encounter more and more competition for those prized spots on competitive teams.

“Students realize if they were a starter here or if they were the quarterbacks here that may not be the case when they go into their freshman year as there will be more athletes competing for any given position,” said coach George Banuelos. “We like to think that when we preach to them about the work ethic that it’s going to go a long way when it comes to the next level of competition.”

Coach Banuelos stresses the importance of training hard during every practice so that when students get to their freshman year, they won’t be surprised by the intensity of the workouts. Additionally, Gutierrez coaches are in constant contact with high-school coaches to ensure they are closely aligning their methodology during student training.

“Coach Woodall from Harlingen High School visits us and spends time with the boys’ athletics as well as with the girls’ athletics. We are glad to see him here. He has been very, very supportive. A lot of the things that we do here come straight from him. It is very beneficial to the kids.”

No matter the sport, Coach Luna said that to bear witness to a student athlete’s growth is truly a remarkable experience.

“When I go to the Friday Night Cardinal Games I’ll have former students that are excited to come up to me after the games to say hi. That always makes me feel good because I know that I did I made a difference their lives,” said Luna. “It’s not about them becoming the next Peyton Manning, Dez Bryant, or Tony Romo. It’s not about that. If our athletes are better than the person they were yesterday, then they are progressively getting better.”

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