Playing intelligent soccer |

Playing intelligent soccer

Sylas Wright
Sierra Sun
Photo submitted by Sheri DitaThe Truckee High boys soccer team gathers for a group shot after winning the state title last Saturday at Mackay Stadium in Reno. (Back row, left to right) Head coach Hernan Valdivia, Erik Newland, Scott Eberhardt, Scott Kelly, Josh Benge, Austin Lynch, Cole Froelich, Sean Collin, Jeremy Adams, Gavin Novotny, coach Mark Pearson. (Middle row) Greg Pearson, Joey Eberhardt, Kevin Flynn, Travis Ganong, Eric Dita. (Front row) Ryan Newland, Will Akers, Moro Sarabia, Al Virrey.

The Truckee High varsity soccer teams shattered the dumb athlete stereotype, each winning the Academic State Championship Award for achieving the highest collective grade point average in greater Nevada.

The girls hauled in a whopping 3.81 ” a nearly flawless ‘A’ average ” and the boys a 3.71, respectively.

“I’m proud of them,” boys head coach Hernan Valdivia said of his team, which learned of the award before winning the state championship against Pahrump Valley Saturday at Mackay Stadium in Reno. “I don’t think they realize how big of a deal if was.”

While proud, Valdivia said he was not surprised by news of the award.

“I was not that shocked because I knew they were a bright group of players,” he said. “They’re just a great group of kids. They’re great soccer players but they’re probably better students.”

The achievement did not go unnoticed by Truckee High athletic director and head football coach Bob Shaffer, who noted the importance of handling business in the classroom before taking the field. Asked if such an award was a point of pride, Shaffer said, “You bet.”

“That’s one of the things we preach, is that we’re student athletes. It seems like most of our athletes are good students.”

Shaffer added that he has observed over the years a direct correlation between good grades and team success, as groups lacking book smarts seem less able to retain crucial knowledge such as game plans and various adjustments from week to week. Valdivia said heading a bunch of academically inclined kids has helped him perform his job as well.

Aside from acknowledging the diligence of the students to pull off the grades, Shaffer credits the coaches. Valdivia, he said, has proven a perfect fit after his first season coaching the boys soccer team.

“He has done a good job,” Shaffer said. “People don’t see all the things Hernan does for the kids day in and day out.”

Among those things are counseling and tutoring players, Valdivia said, and he and wife Amy, who is head coach of the girls team, “kind of consider ourselves educators instead of coaches.”

Meeting in college while playing soccer at Saint Mary’s, and now a part of the staff at Truckee High, the Valdivias have knowledge to pass on, both regarding on-field subject matter and off-field. Hernan said the guidance is aided by the fact that both have close relationships with the players, particularly Amy with her girls.

Winning the academic award not only impressed the school’s athletic director, it made the big boss gush.

“That’s always a proud moment for any school,” Truckee principal Mike Finney said. “You have to credit the moms and dads, and the teachers and students, but the bottom line is that the students are doing the work.”

The boys tennis team, coached by Jim Jackson, also won the Academic State Championship Award. Like Valdivia, Jackson said the honor came as no surprise.

“I knew I had a bunch of smart kids on the team,” Jackson said. “And that’s what it’s all about is the student athlete.”

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