“If it was an all staff email about robotics or the Japanese National Honors Society it would have gotten a dozen replies.” Our athletic director shook his head. “They won CIF and I got two.”
While he said it to me with more bemusement than frustration, I could feel in his observation the emotion of a dad looking out for his kids. He was so very proud of them and he wanted our entire campus community to recognize their accomplishment too.
“If it’s any consolation,” my assistant told him, “when I put photos from sporting events on Facebook they get a lot of likes.”
He smiled. Passionate about supporting student athletes, my friend the athletic director is building a program at a school known for the last couple of decades as an arts powerhouse, a place of murals, music, and students wearing Pikachu costumes. This means that he’s working with students, parents, teachers, and coaches to build a program with a twinkle in his eye.
The most enduring image I’ve seen that captures our school’s funky spirit as it applies to athletics is from the stands at a soccer game last year. Amid a sea of smiling faces one student holds aloft a sign that simply says: “SPORTS!”
I try to project that image behind my athletic director whenever he presents at a meeting. Ours is an unconventional school, more filled with “ands” than “ors.” Last season one of our basketball players took a couple of weeks off to star in the winter musical. She loved playing point guard and she loved tap dancing in Thoroughly Modern Millie.
Given a choice between athletics and the arts, she proved herself a synecdoche of San Dieguito and chose both.
Yet the notion of our school as a place that embraces sports isn’t strange; we have a long tradition of student athletics.
At the opening of the school in 1936, and on through the next forty years, San Dieguito was the only program in town. With successful football teams, a basketball program that spawned professionals, softball, baseball, track and field, and more, the Mustangs were one of North County’s premier high school athletic programs.
Athletics gave students a reason to build bonfires and gather together as a school, and…
…and even from the start San Dieguito had its own style and funky vibe.
In 1958, when a San Dieguito “Cinderman” set the school record in the shot put, the Mustang Band received its highest rating in school history. (For those kids reading, running tracks were once made of “cinder” a nightmare for parents doing laundry, and a crunchier way of running races!)
As the 1969 Mustang Wrestling Team became Avocado League Champions, the San Dieguito Motorcycle Club roared across campus a dozen riders strong.
As 1995 Volleyball team captured CIF, Mustang student artists mounted an enormous art show in the space that later became the Mosaic Cafe.
That same balance exists today at a school where students thrive in robotics, Mustang Minds, and Comedy Sportz (with a “z”) at the same time a growing percentage of the student body choose to put on a blue and white uniform and compete in a sport or maybe two.
We don’t have a football team any more, though the sixty year legacy that began in leather helmets still finds a place in our current traditions. Every homecoming we dust off the old uniforms for a gargantuan flag football tournament that sees hundreds of students play through the afternoon, and ends with a staff versus students game that provides everyone an opportunity to have fun together.
At halftime last year the students all came out on the field and danced.
This playful way of looking at sports might lead to the misconception that our student athletes or our school community doesn’t value athletic competition, but that simply isn’t true.
At San Dieguito we value athletics, academics, and arts. We celebrate innovation, inspiration, and kindness.
In a nutshell, at San Dieguito we value students.
We care about all of their pursuits from sculpture to skateboarding, from singing to soccer.
Back to my AD’s email…
I love that he sent out a few celebratory words about our volleyball team, and even though he may not have gotten as many all staff replies as my drama teacher did for Thespicon, I’ll wager that his email prompted more than a few teachers to congratulate those student athletes he was so very proud of.
Go Mustangs …all of you!