By Jeremy McDonald
SALEM, Ore.—2021 North Salem-Grad Anthony Valdez is entering his fifth-year coaching youth basketball. What started as something to be with his younger siblings has developed and grew into a passion as he enters this season coaching in the Skyball League.
“Coaching started when my younger siblings became old enough to play sports and I wanted to make sure my siblings were never overlooked as I was so I figured it was a win-win as I had a lot of passion for the game,” Valdez starts. “I was a 15-year freshman coaching for my first year a kindergarten team with my little brother and seeing the improvement.
“Everything I was able to teach those kids and seeing them grow really was a great feeling.”
Skyball, or Salem-Keizer Youth Basketball, isn’t new for Valdez; having played in the program as well himself back in Middle School as he helped coach alongside of his old coaches the same time that he started coaching.
Valdez was pulling double-duty. Coaching his younger brother and sisters through kindergarten to the second-grade teams while helping out as an assistant at the Middle School level. Growing and seeing how much fun it was to coach and seeing how fun it was to build that coach-player bond.
“It was a lot of fun building a bond with the kids and seeing growth and just the good vibes brought during the seasons,” Valdez said. “So my junior year came along and as usual I was still coaching the younger two in elementary, having lots of success and fun.”
At 16, he had a chance to coach the seventh-grade boys that he accepted. Nervous yes, but he was confident in his abilities to get the job done.
“When Skyball came around again president Henry Cendejas reached out asking if I would be willing to have my own 7th grade boys’ team, so I accepted it was a little nerve wracking going in as a head coach at the age of 16 but I knew I wanted to do,” described Valdez. “I built such a strong bond with these guys and the talent development I saw was truly amazing.
“We actually had an impressive season as we would only lose one game the entire season obviously not winning it all unfortunately but I felt I had to be doing something right with that success and I do believe it all started with the bond we had.”
He still is in contact with some of those players who are now at North Salem in freshmen Kaeden Hernandez and Oscar Juan De Dios. Both are working their way up to the Vikings Varsity roster being on one of the two Junior Varsity squads in Head Coach Lane McCloud’s program.
“I really loved having such an impact on them and seeing where they are now makes me happy,” Valdez said.
Entering this season, he’s coaching Girls Middle School basketball. They’re encompassing all three grades this year and are excited to see how his team does.
“We have some athletes I’m excited to see out there as a standout seventh grade Grace Truong is looking though she will have an outstanding season from what she has shown so far,” Valdez starts. “As well as Chloe Erickson and Ameyah Higheagle (who are) looking like they can add some strong contributions to the team. I am very excited to see this group of girls and what they will do. I see a lot of potential. I’m every single one of them and I know they will do great things and I know this will be a fun group of girls to be around, I think will have lots of success.”
The season starts for Valdez’ team on January 8 with the league playing every Saturday.