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Incomparable Valdez to be honored at Poe Corn

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There was a time when Hall of Fame coach Flo Valdez felt fear, anger, doubt and uncertainty in her career. One might think it was when she was a high school athlete or a  collegiate athlete scratching to play sports. Maybe it was when she was just starting her career, and wanted to win so bad she could taste it. It could have been when Title IX was just getting underway, and women had the right to compete on equal footing as men. It might have been when Valdez wanted to be taken seriously as a coach and impact young ladies lives as they grew into women. It might have been her knowing that life is not fair and that for the young women under her charge. She would become a role model that teaches her athletes’ they can make a better life for themselves through education and sports.

Those are great guesses, but not even close. There was a time when Ms. Valdez was afraid and scared. She had doubts about herself and in the choice she made in her career. It was at the height of her 23-year career and three years removed from winning her last New Mexico state volleyball championship.

In the 90s Roswell turned over new superintendents and principals, some didn’t last very long. Valdez ran into a principal she felt didn’t support her program very much. Neither of their philosophies worked.

“I wasn’t really looking to leave, but the opportunity arose,” Valdez said. “Franklin High School in El Paso, Texas. The more I looked at it and the more I talked with this guy that was our principal the more I saw that our philosophies weren’t going to come together. I thought, well, why not? I always wondered if I could coach the game in Texas as well and have some success, as I did in New Mexico.”

Valdez decided to leave, after growing up here and graduating from Roswell. After coaching the Coyotes for 23 years. There was a comfort level to being in Roswell so long. A lot of her friends thought she would outlast the principal. Valdez felt with the change in philosophy in the Roswell school district and an opportunity to coach at Franklin, she didn’t know if it would come along again. With Roswell being close enough to get back to if needed. Valdez was intrigued by the different competition level as well.

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“It was very scary,” Valdez said. “I had already established myself in one place and then I move to another place to re-establish myself all over again. It was a change in everything. For a while, I went through a year of wondering if I had made a mistake. At that time I thought what did I do? I left a mecca in Roswell and came to a place that didn’t know how to compete.”

Valdez had to change and teach her team how to compete, by the end of her first year her team won a few games in district.

“The move rejuvenated me,” Valdez said. “It gave me a new challenge in getting those kids to learn to play the game the right way and be competitive.”

Valdez has tried to teach some of the biggest life lessons she learned from Hobbs’ coach Ralph Tasker; to make people be accountable for their own actions, make them responsible high school kids and dedicated high school athletes.

“This thing with the Poe Corn is great,” Valdez said. “I can remember sitting through rivalries with Clovis, the Hobbs teams, both boys and girls teams. Getting honored at the Poe Corn, wow! I’m really honored and very humbled by it.”

When she was asked to name her all-time Roswell team for Volleyball and Basketball, the first name that came to her mind was Veronica Trujillo.

“She is the all-time best overall high school athlete I ever coached,” Valdez said. “She was a dedicated, fiery individual, a person that hated to lose. She hated not seeing her teammates give everything and held them accountable as well as holding herself accountable. I could say that about a couple of those others too. Shelly Williams being another on par with Trujillo.”

Erica Bryan in basketball, Lisa Moore for volleyball, basketball and track, Tahnie Richards, Jessica Toya, volleyball & basketball, Adaline Boulden, volleyball and basketball, and Rhonda Farley.

Williams was another one that was like Trujillo. We were one of the only teams to beat El Dorado high school back in those days. We were playing them at Roswell. El Dorado came to play us after we had just won the volleyball state championships. We beat them in 1977, in that game, Shelly (Williams) was running after the girl, and ran her down and stole the ball. The force of her stop in getting the ball, she ended up breaking her femur.

“I strongly believe had she stayed healthy we would have won the state volleyball, basketball and track all in the 77-78 school year.”

One of her biggest regrets as a coach in Roswell is that she never won a state basketball title.

“A lot of favorite teams when you win state,” Valdez said. “There are a lot of teams that are my favorites,  we just didn’t win. West Mesa was a power back then.”

It doesn’t take her long to recall the sickest she has ever been because of a game she coached and lost. Hobbs when Bryan was a senior. It was a close game and Hobbs had the game won all the way. Time was running out on the clock and Roswell got the steal, Bryan had a wide open layup to win the game and it rimmed out as the buzzer went off.

“That was a heartbreaker,” Valdez said. “We were good, I mean really good. Clovis was the top-seed and we were playing Hobbs for the opportunity to go play Clovis. We were up cheering because Erica (Bryan) never missed a layup. Yeah, that would probably be it.”

Valdez’s favorite victory as a coach at Roswell was when her team won the state track meet with seven kids. Bryan and Trujillo were the leaders of the team. The problem with the team was they didn’t have a mile relay team. Bryan won the hurdles and Clovis dropped the stick in 800 relays, then Roswell won the medley, half-mile. Toward the end of the meet, her team wanted to go home. Valdez knew that no matter who won the mile relay Roswell was going to win meet by one-and-a-half points. Valdez remembers the look on her teams faces as being priceless.

“I want to teach young women to be competitive,”Valdez said. “They can be committed and have a purpose to themselves and their teams.”