By John McGreevy, TJJD Communications
The Lone Star High School Southeast football team is off to a start that’s almost as sizzling hot as the weather. While the young men on the gridiron deserve all the praise they’ve been getting, it seems fitting to give some of the kudos to the coaching staff.
Head Coach Jonathan Wells and Assistant Coaches Nancy Salinas and Martin Rangel have got the Mustangs in position for a great year in the TAPPS (Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools) League, opening the season with a 2-0 start.
Coach Wells enters his third year as a PE teacher and football coach at the Giddings campus. In an impressive career spanning over 30 years that has seen him in the role as teacher, principal, and athletic director, he says coaching is really where his heart is. It’s no exaggeration to say he has a passion for it.
“You’ve really got to want to coach,” he said. “You’ve got to be passionate about it. Coaches are some of the best teachers, because coaching really is about teaching. And these kids really are fun to work with.”
A native Texan, born in Dallas and raised in Brownwood, he comes by his love of football–especially the Dallas Cowboys and Texas Longhorns–honestly. His enthusiasm for football is so powerful that in his free time he’s likely to be unwinding by watching football games at any level.
“I’m always thinking about coaching,” he said. “I’m always thinking about plays. I’m always drawing up new plays and thinking about how I can do better as a coach. I’m always watching game film, always watching games. I love going to high school football games. Watching more football recharges me.”
Coach Salinas is also in her third year at Giddings, but started with TJJD (then the TYC) at the Evins Regional Juvenile Center in Edinburg. Here at Lone Star, she’s been an English teacher and then a science teacher before her current position teaching both Spanish and math. She also coaches the track team.
When Wells asked Salinas to be an assistant, she’d never coached football before. “That’s the first thing I told Coach Wells,” she said. “But I told him I’d do it and he’s been a great mentor. He’s so open to sharing his knowledge and he’s a great motivator. He’s very easy to work with.”
Martin Rangel, the longtime woodshop/construction technology teacher and former soccer coach at Giddings, rounds out the staff. “He has been a godsend to us,” said Wells. “He loves working with these kids and we really needed him.”
The coaching staff make up a pretty good team themselves. “Coach Wells and Coach Rangel focus on the plays and the dynamics of the game and I focus on building the emotional components of the team,” Salinas said. “We huddle up the kids after every practice and I have them tell the player next to them what they saw that the other kid did well today. Between us we account for over a century of experience working with the kids.”
The days leading up to the season weren’t easy ones. Getting the youth into “football shape” safely in the brutal summer heat took some doing. There was another challenge as well. “Giddings doesn’t have a weight room,” Salinas said. “So, we had to get creative.”
Molding the youth into an effective unit working toward the same goal took some time as well.
“When we first started, these kids didn’t know how to work as a team,” Salinas said. “We worked really hard to get these kids to learn to do that. Coach Wells always tells these kids ‘We’re a family now. We have to work together.’ Seeing these kids grow together has been overwhelming.”
The early results haven’t gone unnoticed on campus. “If every kid who wanted to play could be on the team, we’d have fifty kids out there now,” Salinas said.
She said that not all of the kids felt that way when early practices and conditioning sessions were going on. “But as soon as they see the success the team has been having, and seeing the kids on the team wearing their jerseys on game day? Kids telling us they want to be on the team is a constant thing now.”
Salinas echoed Wells’ sentiments when it came to how she unwinds. “Watching sporting events,” she said. “I love the NFL and boxing. I go to Cowboys games every year and follow multiple boxers and UFC fighters.” But it’s not always all about sports, she says. “I enjoy traveling out with my daughter. We have a trip to Europe planned this Thanksgiving.”
The rewarding experience of winning football games is something the coaching staff hopes will be another example of how commitment to a goal and the power of teamwork will serve the youth when they return to their communities.
“I want people to know that even though these kids might have made mistakes, these are still young men that still need an opportunity like anyone else,” Wells said. “I tell these kids that not being very smart got them in here (because they took a path into criminal behavior) and being smart is what’s going to get them out.”
“These kids have earned an opportunity to participate in a sport that not only I love, but they love too,” Wells continued. “I can see it in these kids every day.”
Photos by TJJD Communications. Top, Coach Wells with the players; middle, taking the field; lower, Nancy Salinas and a player watch the action.