Teams of their own |

Teams of their own

Jeff Caspersen
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Jeff Caspersen Post Independent

PARACHUTE, Colorado – David Walck and Ryan Frink have a philosophy when it comes to students and extracurricular activities. The more outlets for activity they have, the better off they are.

It’s that line of thinking that spurred the Grand Valley High School administrators’ latest additions to Grand Valley High School’s sports curriculum: softball and boys soccer.

After a year of unfunded, sub-varsity play, both programs are taking on varsity status this fall. Both will compete in the 3A Western Slope League.

And the merits of the additions may well prove bountiful.

Walck, the school’s assistant principal and activities director, and Frink, its principal, had a sitdown meeting when Walck was hired in 2008. Among what they discussed that day was their vision on activities and athletics.

“Ryan and I really have a philosophy,” Walck explained. “Kids who are involved are going to have more success.”

By establishing softball and boys soccer programs last year, that philosophy found validation.

“We played JV and the kids had to fundraise and pay for everything themselves,” Walck said. “All those kids’ grades improved. Some kids who were going to quit school stayed. We had an alternative-education student who did more credits that year than they had done the previous two years.

“Once we saw that commitment from the kids and we had financial contributors from the community, the board unanimously supported me this spring.”

Even in these turbulent economic times, Walck’s proposal won Garfield County School District 16 board approval.

Now, as the calendar turns to fall, the nearly 40 student-athletes that comprise Grand Valley’s boys soccer and softball programs are reaping the benefits.

“We’re very happy, just for the school to have soccer,” soccer head coach Juan Rivera said while directing a Tuesday practice featuring roughly 14 players. “They have girls soccer, but for the boys we are very excited, very happy.”

Softball coach Brooke Whitman has seen immense interest in her program. On the same warm August Tuesday, she found herself working with more than 20 players, many relatively new to the game but thrilled to have a team of their own.

“Oh yeah,” senior Shawnee Young said. “For a long time, we’ve wanted [a team].”

Two seasons ago, Young and teammate Sidney Drinkhouse commuted to play for Rifle High School, the nearest school with a program.

“I like it a lot better that I don’t have to travel,” Drinkhouse said.

Apparently, with the turnout being what it is, Drinkhouse’s teammates feel the same way.

“It’s turned out really good with the numbers,” said Whitman, who played softball at Rifle during her high school days. “We didn’t really quite realize because they didn’t have much of a summer program [in Parachute].”

Rivera, a Mexican immigrant who teaches Spanish at Grand Valley, is still looking to beef up his soccer program’s numbers. Though shy on players, the interest is certainly high among those currently rostered on the mostly Latino squad.

The team’s history actually extends back beyond its formal inception last season.

Two years ago, a group of students would regularly gather at Bea Underwood Elementary School for pickup games.

“It started when we started to play in Battlement Mesa,” senior Pablo Espino said. “We all got together to play soccer.”

Walck, whose son plays Three Rivers Youth Football and practices at Bea Underwood, took notice.

“In one corner, I saw a group of kids that was always out there,” Walck said. “I went down there and introduced myself.”

From there, the effort to establish a program grew.

“We had this population of kids that had a passion for the sport and we had nothing that met that,” Walck said. “Soccer is where we were looking. It was the same with softball. Ryan [Frink] had been a softball coach at a previous institution, and we had girls going up to Rifle. We saw that, put a plan of attack together and went to the kids.”

The kids took to it. The program’s two new coaches took to it. And now Grand Valley has softball and boys soccer teams of its very own.

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