Even in the best of times, the challenges facing the fall sports programs at Santa Fe Indian School are immense.
As a resident school, its students come from across the state. And they generally don’t start arriving until a day or two before classes start.
That means that the summer programs that other schools use to hone their athletes before the start of the school year are not available to the Braves.
Of course, this year, no one is quite certain when school is even going to start.
What’s more, two of the programs, girls soccer and football, don’t have head coaches in place yet.
“All sports are taking a hit, as far as summer workouts,” said SFIS athletic director Eric Brock, who used to be the Braves football coach and understands the unique challenges the program faces. “If all fall sports are coming down, and we’re already low on the notch, we’re going to be even lower on the notch.”
Brock said he has a head football coach ready to go, he’s just waiting on a job opening at the school before formally accepting it. Once that occurs, the coach and his staff will really have to be scrambling.
“It’s going to have to be a deal where when the time comes, he gets his kids ready faster, and maybe cuts down on the complexity of what he expects for what a typical team could possibly do,” Brock said. “He’s going to have to have a game plan that’s relatively easy to learn and easy to implement.”
Obviously, expectations this first season under a new regime will be fairly minimal, Brock said.
“What he comes up with may not be complex, but it will be fundamentally sound and something our kids can grasp a hold of and have success with to grind out a few wins,” he said. “I think it can be done.”
All this also is dependent upon school starting up in some sort of normal manner, Brock said.
“It just also depends, with the whole COVID-19, whether we open at the beginning of fall, if we’re going to be able to start on time,” he said. “Everything is so up in the air, nobody can make a solid prediction on what things look like.”
SFIS coaches for all sports have been tasked with keeping in touch with their athletes, Brock said.
“We have workouts and things that we sent via email and team aps,” he said. “What we’ve asked them is to send out general physical fitness-type activities. Yes, we want our kids to shoot basketballs, hit baseballs and catch footballs. But if our kids can come back in the fall in general physical fitness shape, I think they’ll be able to pick up those pretty specific motor skills pretty fast.”
Assistant football coaches who are on staff at the school have taken on that task in the absence of a head coach, Brock said. Several of them are also parents of players, so there is a tight bond with the assistant coaches and players.
And with the devastating toll that the virus has taken in Native communities, it’s important to keep the athletes’ physical and mental well-being in mind, as well.
“We asked coaches to concentrate on their personal well-being, how they’re doing, how family is,” Brock added. “Check in on their mental well-being and, hopefully, kids will get back in the fall.”
Toward that end, school officials and tribal leaders have been in communication about the feasibility of sending their students back to the school.
“I think there is a general concern, a real concern, and we’re sitting right there with everybody else,” Brock said. “And we have a more general concern because our kids come from every corner of the state. We have been in contact with the tribal leaders to try to hear their concerns as far as what they’re looking toward in sending their kids to Santa Fe Indian School. Their wants and needs, and how they and their tribal students are cared for.”