Graduates Return to School 5

As coaches, they give back to their school and sport.

Parker’s got an interesting phenomenon. Graduates of its high schools return to their old stomping grounds to help coach the sports they participated in when they were students.

And they say they are returning for the love of their sport, and to give back and be a part of their high school communities.

Take Chaparral’s boys and girls soccer teams. Those players are coached by four former students:  Grace Sokolow, Kelsey Ferguson, Paul Stanton and Lauren Bound. And at Ponderosa, Head Coach Randy Huff is helped out by former track stars Heath Butler, Doug Dieker and Alex Fischer.

“I think a lot of people in this day and age never think that they’re going to be back at their high school, especially coaching,” says Bound, an assistant JV soccer coach and 2014 Chaparral graduate. “I have never been so thrilled to be back and to be back at not only Chaparral because it’s an amazing school, but to be back with the students. I couldn’t have been given a better opportunity this year with more amazing athletes than this.”

Sokolow, a 2005 Chaparral graduate, agrees, saying: “I had just moved back to Colorado after finishing graduate school in Pennsylvania and I wasn’t sure what I wanted to be doing, but I knew that I wanted to somehow return and be a part of the Chaparral community.”

As the assistant varsity coach for boys soccer and assistant head coach for girls soccer, Sokolow just completed her fourth year of coaching, helping to share the knowledge she gained while playing soccer in both high school and at Vassar College in New York.

“My favorite thing is when I get the kids as freshmen; they are so young and bright-eyed, and seeing them grow up, watching the transition from new freshman to really nice accomplished young men and women.”

Butler, a 2006 graduate who won the state in discus his senior year and holds the discus record at the Colorado School of Mines, just completed his fourth year coaching discus and shot put for Ponderosa.

“You don’t really remember where you started off and how you progressed, so it’s kind of neat seeing how they progress from not knowing anything to some of the kids going to State at the end of the year,” says Butler, who works as an engineer for CH2M Hill. “It’s kind of neat to see that progression.”

Of course, Colorado’s beautiful spring weather and the love of their sport is also a contributing factor.

While Fischer said he enjoys working with Huff, he said he also enjoys the sport.

“I think running is one of those life-long things you can always do,” says Fischer, a 1995 graduate who works as a filmmaker and helps train the sprinters and relay team members. “I think it’s a good sport for people to develop themselves through. Plus, I just enjoy being outside in the spring time.”

Dieker just finished his third season working with the “jumpers.”  He holds the school’s pole vault record and participated in pole vault and the decathalon at Colorado State.

“I always enjoyed it when I was in high school. It created a lot of opportunities for me. I felt like I could come back and help create some of those opportunities for the kids,” says Dieker, a 2006 graduate who now works as a flying instructor.

Chaparral’s Stanton enjoys giving back to his former school and will also be coaching the JV boys soccer team when practice begins in June.

“I always wanted to come back and coach because of the role models I had as coaches,” says Stanton, a 2013 graduate who is studying engineering at Red Rocks Community College with plans to transfer to Colorado School of Mines. “I felt if I can give back to the community, the best way would be to come back as a coach.”

Fellow coach and 2008 Chap graduate, Ferguson, started coaching in December 2012 because of her love for the sport.

“I love soccer. I wasn’t ready to be done,” Ferguson says, noting that she played at South Dakota State and felt like this was the next step in her progression. Now working for the Douglas County School District in the teacher’s professional library, Ferguson says she enjoys watching the girls evolve.

“It’s really fun to come back home and be in a community that I really enjoy.”

Back across town at Ponderosa, Coach Huff enjoys having the former track stars helping out.

“It’s basically the best compliment you could ask for, because their experience here was a positive one,’’ Huff says. “They want to give back not only to just the sport, but also they want to give back to the program that means something to them. That means more than anything else.

“The fact that they are such quality people, obviously for us to be able to hire them to work with our youth is whole other story. They are three of the best people that I know. They are just wonderful young people.”