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A risk that’s paid off

Posted: July 30, 2009 9:42 p.m.
Updated: July 31, 2009 4:55 a.m.
 
My first-ever job was at a Dairy Queen. They fired me after one day.

Since then I've delivered pizzas, officiated laser tag matches and assembled electrolysis machines. I've stocked shelves at an office supply store, sold knives in people's living rooms and tried to convince people to agree to refinance their homes over the telephone.

I'm kind of an expert in depressing jobs. That's the point I'm trying to make.

I know what it's like to glance at a watch every 15 seconds and swear it had to have been at least 15 minutes.

So yeah, when I made the decision last year to leave the only job I've ever been proud of, ending my time as a sportswriter for The Signal, I knew it was a risk.

The risk, fortunately for me, is paying off so far.

I have gone from interviewing coaches to coaching against coaches, having just recently completed my second summer as the freshman girls basketball coach at Valencia High.

It's stressful.

It's low paying.

It's a social life killer.

And you know what? I love it.

You can ask the girls I've coached whether I've inspired them or made their transition into high school go more smoothly. All I can say for sure is, I really enjoy trying.

There's a unique opportunity to make a positive impact with freshman girls.

The job goes beyond teaching the fundamentals of the sport or the plays in the playbook.

When I first meet my players, they're not only meeting me for the first time, they're meeting their teammates for the first time. Some are playing basketball for the first time.

They're nervous and self-conscious.

Now add in the anxiety that comes with going to high school for the first time. Last year, they were the oldest kids at their junior high schools. Three years ago, they went to the same school as first-graders. Now they're attending the same school as 18-year-olds.

These are the human hunks of clay coaches get to help mold. Doing it well isn't easy.

Fortunately, Valencia High's varsity coach, Jerry Mike, helped a great deal. He fitted me with an extremely sturdy pair of training wheels, giving me a great team for my first year.

Ashley Pinsker, Aman Bilg, Alana Pitman, Breanna Mendoza, Daniella Essayan, Lexie Odum, Katelyn Morris and
Kimiya Gilani are good people and good basketball players.

They went 20-2 last year, half of the wins by more than 30 points.

The team won two preseason tournament championships and then the girls won the Foothill League championship, beating the other league teams by a 36-point average.

Aman and Ashley were our co-MVPs. Ashley is a great point guard, passer and leader. Aman, to give you an idea of what she does well, had one game where she scored 27 points in a single half. She had another game where she scored 28 points in one half.

You'll read plenty of articles about both of them in this newspaper in the future.

I appreciated being able to take some residual credit for their success.

Sometimes I gave the wrong advice. Sometimes I yelled when I shouldn't have. Other times I was quiet when I should have been yelling. But I'm proud of how it worked out.

And I learned a lot about my new job along the way.
Now I get to do it all over again with Valencia's next set of freshmen.

Sure beats making Blizzards at Dairy Queen.

Andrew Barlam is a former Signal Staff Writer. He is currently coaching at Valencia High and working as a substitute teacher, while he pursues a teaching credential.


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