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The legend you hardly knew; Former coach to be inducted in New Mexico State Hall of Fame

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Pam Allen is pictured with Flo Valdez during a ceremony at the Poe Corn Invitational in December. (David Rocha Photo)

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The one thing opponents notice when they play coach Pam Allen’s Capitan volleyball team is their on-court persona. Most teams high-five after they score a point before they get ready to serve the ball, not Capitan. Capitan gathers in a bunch and their players stomp once and then twice as their fans mock them, rocking the stands.

Allen, in her fourth decade of coaching, stands with her hands in her pocket in her loose-fitting floral print black pants to go along with a black top with matching slip-on black shoes to match her outfit. She stands in a way that a five-time state volleyball champion can. Allen has made the look of wearing glasses and gray hair cool again as she grows old gracefully before our eyes.

Allen has gone and done it again in her quiet way.  On Dec.16, at a press conference in Albuquerque, she was inducted into the New Mexico Sports Hall of Fame 2017 class as the “Magnificent Seven.”

As a member of the Hall of Fame, the weekend consisted of going to the Gildan Bowl football game between Marshall Thundering Herd and the Colorado State Rams. As part of the induction weekend, they were put up in a hotel with free meals. They also got to see a basketball game at The Pit. They and their families were treated to free limousine service. The official ceremony will take place on April 8 at the Convention Center.

The other six inductees are as follows:

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• Rick Galles, a former New Mexico Military athlete whose Galles Auto Racing team has won the Indianapolis 500 and a Championship Auto Racing Teams title.

• Roy Gerela, a former New Mexico State placekicker for the Pittsburg Steelers and the winner of three Super Bowls.

• Dr. Ron Maestas, an age-group racquetball champion who coached the New Mexico Highlands University cross-country team to national prominence.

• Dr. Anthony Sandoval, a state cross-country and track champion at Los Alamos High School and a Stanford University All-American who won the 1980 U.S. Olympic Marathon trials — but did not get to go to Moscow because of President Jimmy Carter’s Olympics boycott.

• The late Johnny Tapia, a five-time world professional boxing champion and two-time Golden Gloves amateur champ who was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame earlier this year.

• John Wooten, a Carlsbad football and basketball star who went on to an All-American career at Colorado University and a nine-year NFL career with the Cleveland Browns and the Washington Redskins.

“I am profoundly humble,” Allen said, “to have been included into the New Mexico Hall of Fame. As I walked down the hallway from the hotel and as I looked at the wall of the pictures of the people that have been inducted, so many I know, and if I didn’t know them, I’ve heard of them. I was humbled beyond description, overwhelmed and just in awe to be included in that group of people.”

Allen’s story started when she worked with Dexter principal Jimmy Derrick as they worked to get girls athletics recognized before Title IX was in place. Girls athletics were sanctioned by one vote by the New Mexico Activities Association in 1973.

“Probably the greatest impact as far as my career,” Allen said. “And my association around positive people has been the result of interscholastic athletics for girls in New Mexico.”

Allen led Dexter to their first back-to-back state volleyball title in 1973-74. Allen is proud of the fact that when she went to Goddard, four freshmen on her team won the state title as seniors in 1980, at Eastern New Mexico University. Allen won a title at Capitan in 1988 and won as recently as 2014 in Ruidoso. She also led Carrizozo to three straight state-title appearances from 2011-13. Her coaching excellence was not contained to the court, she has coached Capitan to three state titles in track and field, from 1989-91.

“She (Flo Valdez) and I went at it,” Allen said. “We went at it. When you played her teams, you had to bring your A-game when you played coach Valdez.”

Allen thinks back to her first state title in ‘73 and the last one she won in 2014, and she feels like she’s a better teacher of the game now to kids. Back then, she didn’t know how to teach the game, so she just yelled and hollered at them. For Allen, there were no mentors, she bought a book on volleyball, read it, but didn’t understand it. Nevertheless, she tried to teach her teams the drills. Now she can explain the drills to her team successfully.

“The thrill of winning is the same,” Allen said. “There is nothing greater than to get the big win. The difference between then and now is that I have learned to teach kids how to play.”

One of the tipping points for Allen was when she went to a clinic in Albuquerque years ago when she heard a speaker tell the group, “Children do not come to practice with the idea in mind to practice poorly, they don’t play with the idea in mind to play poorly. They want to look good in front of their peers and their family, and if they are not doing what you want them to do, then clearly you have not taught them what you want them to do.”

“Ever since I heard that, I try to keep that in mind when I’m coaching,” Allen said. My dad (Fletcher Hall) was a great horseman, and he talked to me about the similarities to working with people and working with horses. ‘Work them hard and send them home before they get frustrated and tired. If you keep them over an hour-and-a-half, all you’ve done is teach them to pace themselves. Then you want them to play hard in a game and they can’t because you’ve taught them to pace themselves.’”

Allen looks back on her bringing Dexter their first state title, as well as hers in 1973, and then to win it again in ‘74, was satisfying as well but she felt more pressure on her because they had won the year before.

On her win at Goddard, she remembers winning out on their home court in front of a packed crowd that had standing room only; she says that was awesome. Goddard was down 14-4 to Alamogordo in the second game. With the way the game was looking, Allen said that the match was going three sets, but 5-foot-2 Margaret Mitchum was on the right-hand side of the court. She jumped up and struck and the ball sailed cross-court and landed 12 feet inside the line. A couple of players served out the side for Goddard to win the state title.

The best part of winning for Allen was the fans stormed the court.

Allen knows that none of the things she has accomplished would have been possible without the support of her family, athletes and her great assistant coaches. Coaches from Goddard were Hayden Hill, Dough Lynn, and Michell Edgett; from Carrizozo: Gina Vanlandingham; Capitan: Sherry Gowen, Victoria Sedillo, Donnell Merchant, Norm Cline and Ron Becker, who has made her want to be a better person; and Artesia: Stacy Gowen-Williams.

Some of Allen’s accomplishments are the induction into the 2015 National High School Athletic Coaches Association Hall of Fame and the 2005 New Mexico High School Coaches Association Hall of Honors.

“I would like for all of the kids that I’ve coached,” Allen said, “for them to have the respect for the opportunity to play. I would like for them to experience teamsmanship, commitment to other people and the joy of giving their all.”