“The more concerned you have become over the things you can’t control,” John Wooden said, “the less you will do with the things you can control.”
Roswell girls’ basketball coach Fernando Sanchez is hot about a call that went against his team. Sanchez is so mad he calls a timeout against Santa Teresa. Roswell is up 32-12, in the middle of the third quarter.
Fifth-year assistant coach Stephanie Silvas is squatting and diagramming a play in the middle of the huddle talking about strategy. During the timeout, Sanchez continues to talk to the referee about the call that went against his team. Sanchez finally comes back to the huddle and stands back listening as Silvas finishes giving instructions before the team heads back onto the court, they put their hands into the huddle and break before going back out to the court.
Rewind to when Silvas was a freshman at Tabor College; there was a time when she was homesick, wanted to quit and come home. It was the first time she was away from home and on her own. The other daunting part for Silvas was being 12 hours away and having no one to depend on but herself. The nice part of going to school at Tabor was the community, Hillsboro, Kansas, was small like Roswell.
The Lady Blue Jays coaches Rusty Allen and Shawn Winter believed in Silvas enough not to let her quit, telling her that her homesickness would pass. Allen and Winter told her what she needed to do to improve to see time on the court. Her parents, Ernesto and Martina Silvas, offered support along with then-Dexter basketball coach Kim Smith.
“The thing about Tabor is that it was so far away from home,” Silvas said. “I was to the point like I want to come back and see my family, and I don’t know if I can do this. However, Kim (Smith) told me to stick to it and finish it out and keep working hard.”
Going to Tabor was a far cry from when Silvas started varsity as an eighth-grader at Dexter. Silvas had lightning quickness where she could blow by her opponents, she had the ability to stop on a dime as opponents went flying by and pull up for a three-pointer, and the best part of all for Dexter fans was that Silvas was a tough cover as a left-hander.
She led the Lady Demons to the Regionals when she was in school after a storied career, Silvas represented Dexter in the 1A/2A North, South All-Stars in volleyball and basketball. She also won the 2002 Gatorade Will to Win award by her softball coach Mary Nunez.
Silvas is quick to credit her relationship with the hard-driving then-Dexter basketball coach Kim Smith for believing in her enough to push her to excel on the court and in the classroom. Smith helped Silvas get a national scouting report.
“She (Smith) did a lot for me,” Silvas said. “Kim (Smith) pretty much helped me get out of Dexter and pursue basketball ‘cause that’s what I wanted to do. Coach Smith is a great coach; she’s very dedicated, and she will bring out the best in you. She was very focused, demanding and she pushed you. She encouraged you and was determined to make you the best.”
Smith took Silvas to Tabor on a weekend visit during the summer, both toured the campus as Silvas scrimmaged against the players who would become her teammates. The coaches were so impressed with her that they offered her a scholarship.
On the court, Silvas did not start on the varsity for Tabor, in fact, she played junior varsity basketball most of her first two seasons. It was during the latter part of her sophomore season the coaches brought her up to varsity.
There was an adjustment for Silvas in the speed of the game. At college, everyone was as smart and talented as she was. Silvas maintained her quickness but playing at that level in college was a difference that took her some time to adjust to. Silvas realized that she needed to get stronger to compete at the college level.
“Playing at the college level, there are going to be better players than you are,” Silvas said. “I kind of saw that aspect of it, that I have to work harder and get better in my scoring and defense. I also needed to hit the weights, it was tough learning a new program from what coach Smith had taught me.”
In Silvas’ junior season, everything started to click for her. She averaged double figures in assists and in points while starting her junior and senior year. Silvas played so well she was able to become a graduate assistant at Tabor as she finished up her degree. After her playing career was over with, she fell in love with the idea of coaching and teaching the game. Silvas feels like going to Tabor and sticking it out changed her life.
“I like everything about coaching,” Silvas said. “I like watching kids grow, not only on the court but off the court as well. I love to compete and be involved, and I love to win. I want to be a good mentor to my players and bring out the best in them as coach Smith did for me.”
Silvas tries to take some of her coaching philosophies from all the coaches she has played for and coached with. She would like to be demanding, encouraging and try to get the best out of all her players regardless of their ability.
“One of the things I learned from coach Smith was a lot of life lessons,” Silvas said. “The main thing she (Smith) did for me was help me get out of Roswell and helped me get a scholarship to go play basketball. I appreciate everything coach Smith has done for me.”
Silvas thinks she might have left Dexter after high school but acknowledges she might not be teaching and coaching.
“Coach Smith is a great influence on my life and always will be,” Silvas said. “If it wasn’t for her helping me out, I don’t know if I would be in this position right now. She helped me learn a lot of life lessons. She’s a great coach and well-respected.”
When she started her coaching career, it was RHS volleyball coach Heather Baca who gave her her first opportunity to coach. After several years of coaching volleyball, an opening in basketball came up and head coach Joe Carpenter invited her onto his staff. When Carpenter moved to Hobbs, coach Sanchez asked her to be a part of his staff.
Silvas now teaches physical education and health at University High School.
Often, Silvas thinks about what her life would have been like if she had quit college her freshman year.
Silvas said she “lives by the philosophy that only you can control what your life is going to look like. You must believe in yourself and have the courage, determination and competitive drive to achieve your goals. Work hard and never give up on your dreams.”