Nogales Football: Building Traditions That Last a Lifetime

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Program Spotlight: Nogales Apaches

If a person hears “Nogales,” high school football is probably the last thing one associates with the town. Especially in today’s political climate, Nogales is more frequently tied to hot-button issues and stereotypes in the daily and national news. For the Nogales Apaches football team and its head coach Jake Teyechea, this is something they’re working to change.

Coach Teyechea is committed to making his team an integral part of both the Nogales community and the overall success of his student-athletes. As they go into his second season at the helm of the Apache football program, they’ve already worked to support the community. The 2018-2019 season was dedicated to a local five-year-old girl, Sayde Lowe, who was hospitalized in Phoenix awaiting her second heart transplant. The season was spent honoring her battle, and in turn, her fight and spirit inspired the team and the community. When she passed away, the team was a notable presence at her service, a clear sign that the team and the community were supporting each other through things much bigger than football.

How is Coach Jake Teyechea attempting to shape the program? He’s operating off of the ideals of tradition, integrity, and championship performance, on and off the field. His athletes often face racist remarks. Rather than focus on how unfair it is for young students to receive these comments, he’s more focused on teaching them lessons in integrity. “Our community is looked [at] as Mexico, as a ghetto, and on the field, we face racial remarks. Well, life ain’t gonna be any easier, so they need to have integrity and pride and not react negatively.”

Coach uses football as a metaphor for the life and academic philosophy he models for his team. The idea of striving to be a champion doesn’t end when they leave the field; it carries into the classroom and off of school grounds. For the Nogales Apaches, high school and graduation are likened to the workweek of football season: You can’t make it to game night, or graduation, without putting in the hard effort every day of the week leading up to it. “They have to study just as hard [as they practice], every day, to make it to graduation.” Finally, he reminds them that life isn’t just athletics and academics. “Some of my kids [are] young fathers or have to work to help support their families. [We teach them] that they should do that work with pride as well.”

Coach Jake Teyechea envisions young athletes who are filled with community pride, who are humble enough to continue contributing to the community long after they’ve grown. In essence, he wants to use Nogales football to enrich the community and equip the student-athletes with tools that will last long after their final down on the field. If the past year is any indication, he’s well on his way to doing just that, and we’re excited to watch his program continue to shape his athletes and community.

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