'Caring Beyond Competition' in Wimberley was big success

The "yellow dogs" started arriving in Wimberley at 8 a.m. Tuesday.

Within an hour, some 20 yellow school buses were parked by a street near an empty field, where about 450 high school athletes and coaches gathered for a briefing before fanning out to help with the massive flood cleanup in the Wimberley-San Marcos area.

Designated as "Caring Beyond Competition" by Wimberley High School principal Jason Valentine, the one-day event drew boys and girls athletes and coaches from 22 schools.

Some came from as far away as Barbers Hill, located east of Houston and a 4½-hour drive from Wimberley, which was hit hardest by the deadly flooding on Memorial Day weekend.

"It was a great day," said Doug Warren, Wimberley's athletic director and head football coach. "It was really impressive to see all those kids. It's their summer vacation and they showed up. It's not easy work. It's hot out there. It's dirty but, man, the kids were very impressive with their attitude and the way they came in and worked.

"It made your heart swell just to see those kids give of their time. Like one coach told me, 'Coach, I didn't have to get anybody to come. All I did was tell them about it and the kids came.'"

The list of volunteers included athletes and coaches from San Antonio-area schools Judson, Steele, Wagner, Bandera and Navarro.

"I'm always wondering what am I going to wear today, what am I going to do today," said Steele football player Jamison J-Douglas, a senior offensive guard. "But then you go out there to Wimberley and see these people who don't even have a set of clothes, and their objective for the day is cleaning up their house that was destroyed. It just sets you back to focus on the necessities. It was humbling."

Other schools represented were Belton, Clifton, Crosby, Cuero, Fredericksburg, Gatesville, Hays, Luling, Poteet, Runge, San Angelo Lake View, San Saba and Wimberley. Heath Clawson, a football coach from Carrollton Newman Smith, which is in the Dallas area, and coaches from Katy Cinco Ranch and Houston Cypress Ranch also were among the volunteers.

"Caring Beyond Competition" was spawned by an appeal for help from Warren to his fellow coaches across the state.

"A few days after the flood, I started getting calls from coaches in the area," Warren said. "Some I knew and some I didn't know. They just kept telling me, 'Coach, we want to help. What can we do?' From those conversations sprung this idea of, hey, why don't we have a day, why don't we designate a day that we bring all these people in?

"I know how the coaching fraternity works. I may not know those guys, but if they need something, then I'm going to try to provide it. They did for us. They reached out and helped."

Warren contacted the Texas High School Coaches Association, which has its offices in San Marcos, about the project and the THSCA spread the word via its web site. On Tuesday, THSCA executive director D.W. Rutledge, formerly head football coach at Judson, was among the many helping with the cleanup.

"It just makes you so proud of those kids and their coaches when they do the things that they do for their community," Rutledge said. "This is the first week of their summer vacation and they come out there, with no expectations of any kind of reward. Then you've got the coaches who brought them.

"It was pretty impressive to see. It was a neat thing and a great lesson for these kids. Athletics is a special thing, if it's done right."

Carl Padilla, the founder of the Padilla Poll, which ranks Texas high school football teams, also was instrumental in spreading the word, Warren said.

"We coordinated with one of the relief teams that are here in Wimberley, and they had places for every group to go," Warren said. "Some of those groups went back into San Marcos and helped out there. Most of us stayed in Wimberley. Coaches were given their assignment. They had maps of where they were going. So they just loaded their kids on the buses and went off to their work site.

On Tuesday, six Judson girls basketball players were among the volunteers were among the many volunteers on hand for "Caring Beyond Competition."

"We had a good mixture of kids from different sports," Warren said. "You could tell who the football players were because they're big boys, but they were all athletes who wanted to come here and help and give a day of their time for service."

Nine days earlier, Judson assistant football coaches Guy Anderson and Mark Sauceda took a group of about 20 current and former Rockets football players to assist with the cleanup in San Marcos. Most of the Judson players who helped are offensive linemen coached by Anderson and Sauceda.

"This was something that I felt needed to be dealt with," senior center Jakob Alonzo said. "Some of these people lost almost everything. It was a tragedy. It was truly a blessing that I was able to go out there and help some families.

"When Coach Anderson texted the night before and told us he needed our help, there were no ifs, ands or buts. It was all, 'Yes, sir.' We're a family. Everything that we do every single day brings us closer. A coach's main goal is to make us better people, not better football players."

Senior offensive tackle Terence Hickman was among the Judson players who helped in San Marcos.

"It was pretty sad to see what happened there," Hickman said. "You just can't take anything for granted. It's always good to give back."

Former Judson player and coach Mark Soto, now athletic director of the San Marcos ISD and the Rattlers' head football coach, organized the relief effort for athletes in his district. Soto is a good friend of Anderson and Sauceda, a former San Marcos assistant coach.

"Coaches have a platform that should be used as a service to others," said Anderson, who played for Rutledge at Judson. "I feel that if anybody needs help, I'm in communication with kids where I can ask them, 'Hey, these people need help and I want to go help them out.' That's what D.W. (Rutledge) taught us. Don't worry about yourself. Worry about others.

"D.W. took coaching and running his program to another level with the mental aspect. He didn't so much talk about winning games. He talked more about what you're going to do to be a good person. I bought into it and I know other guys bought into it. All that comes to mind when you see what happened in Wimberley and San Marcos."

Sauceda coached at San Marcos High School under Bruce Bush for six years, and is familiar with some of the neighborhoods hit hardest by the flood.

"I know a lot of families in that community and it was just a way to give back," Sauceda said. "I just felt that I had to help. This totally fits in with the whole Judson mantra. We talk about brotherhood. We talk about a family and playing for the brand a lot at Judson, and how the actions of the Rockets echo. As coaches, we were humbled by the players' eagerness to do this.

"We all have something to give. You either invest it or you waste it. Our kids invested into the community. It was so special. They busted their butts for it. It was refreshing to see that as an adult, not just as a coach. Ballgames will come and go, but it's the things that you for other people that will have an impact on your life. Those are the things that D.W. Rutledge spoke about."

Anderson credited former Judson defensive lineman Nathan Vajdos, a childhood friend, for initiating the effort to get the Rockets to go to San Marcos last week.

"When you have a natural disaster like this happen, it just seemed like the right thing to do," said Vajdos, who played on Judson's 1992 and 1993 state-championship teams. "I went out to Wimberley to help with some friends from my church on Thursday, and Guy and I started texting each other Friday night or Saturday night and he said, 'Hey, I think I can get a group of kids together.' So we went out Sunday, and the kids knocked it out of the park."

Steele coach Scott Lehnhoff took 40 football players to Wimberley on Tuesday. The Knights were paired with athletes from Clifton High School, where former New Braunfels head football coach Chuck Caniford is now head coach.

"It was great to see so many kids there," Lehnhoff said. "It was neat. There were times when it seemed like we were facing an uphill battle trying to do the things that we were doing, but at the same time, every little bit helps. It's got to be done and we have to help those people get their lives back in order.

"We helped a single mom in a home by the river who not only lost her residence, but also her livelihood because she had a bed-and-breakfast there. She lost all the trees on her property. I'm very proud of my players. They continually do what you ask of them. I know the people we were working for today – and the work was tough – appreciated it tremendously. Our kids probably got a lot more out of it than they put into it."

Comments by Steele junior defensive lineman Josh Croslen bore that out.

"It makes you realize how blessed you are for what you have," Croslen said. "It makes you realize you may not have what you have for your whole life. You better appreciate it. I just wanted to help out because a lot of people lost their home and all their possessions."

The athletes showed their school pride by wearing their school colors and T-shirts, but they were all on one team when they went to work.

"We'll be out on the playing field and we're playing against Fredericksburg or Bandera or Navarro and we have these rivalries," Warren said. "But there was none of that today. It was awesome. They worked side by side, helping each other do what needed to be done, no matter what town or school they were from or who they were working with. That was pretty cool."

"Athletics is about coming together and accomplishing a big goal," Croslen said. "Out there at Wimberley, it wasn't about us. We had to put our pride aside and come together for one common goal, and that was to help clean up the city."

Years from now, these young athletes and the people they helped will remember the June day they worked side by side and learned one of life's truisms: We're all bound by our common humanity.

"I don't think that. I know that," Warren said. "I've seen that in the community, the outpouring of love for people that you may not know, and just getting in there side by side with somebody. Sometimes it was helping them out with their home.

"Other times it was just listening to them or giving them a hug, or whatever, because they needed everybody. They had lost everything and they needed all of us. I've seen it. I know it works. It's pretty special."


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