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Lady Coyotes’ coach: ‘She’s my favorite player ever’

Delainy Sanchez, left, and Fernando Sanchez, Delainy’s father and Roswell girls’ basketball coach. (AJ Roe Photo)

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Sports Editor’s Notebook: With the COVID-19 pandemic, I thought it would be fun to look back in my notebook and write some of the stories I wanted to write during the season, but I didn’t have space, time, access, or all three. RDR Sports looks back on the delicate balance of the Roswell girls’ basketball team on Senior Night and the emotions of a father, coach Fernando Sanchez, coaching his daughter Delainy Sanchez at the end of her senior year.

Delainy Sanchez (AJ Roe Photo)

As the girls’ basketball coach for the Roswell Lady Coyotes, Fernando Sanchez has always handed out flowers, shaken hands, congratulated seniors, and wished them well on Senior Night.

Last year’s Senior Night was different. For Fernando, it was important for him to soak up the ambiance of the Coyote Den. This time, he had the opportunity to walk his daughter, Delainy Sanchez out with his wife, Marcie Sanchez, and pose for pictures and enjoy the festivities, not as a coach but as a dad.

During the ceremony, he had the feeling of a lump growing in his throat, which was strange for him because Fernando Sanchez is not an emotional man. Fernando Sanchez knew that he had to hold his emotions together because he had to coach his team in their last home game of the season.

“I’ve never pictured it,” Coyotes’ coach Fernando Sanchez said. “I have always been the one to shake the hands and give the flowers. For that one night, I didn’t. I went and stood with her. It was important for me to be a dad for three or four minutes. I got to walk out my daughter, not as a coach, but as a proud dad. That was huge for me. Delainy’s my favorite player ever. She’s my firstborn and I’m always going to be her dad. I will have the memories of being her coach. For three or four minutes, I got to be a dad.”

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Fernando Sanchez thinks coaching his daughter has been one of the greatest things he’s ever done in his life. He preaches family to the basketball team. This past season was not the one coach or daughter wanted, but the team finished with one more win than last season at 7-20.

Delainy Sanchez did not start but came off the bench and played in the middle as a 5-foot-3 post player. She was the smallest post player on the team last year. She wasn’t a ball-handling wizard and didn’t shoot the three-ball. Her game was one of grit, determination, unselfishness and leadership.

Favorite player

“She’s my favorite player ever,” Fernando Sanchez said. She’s done an amazing job and far exceeds my expectations of her this year. She was our smallest and most aggressive post player. She was willing to stand up to anybody and do what’s right. As a father, I couldn’t think of a better kid than my daughter. Anytime you have an idol in your life and you have a chance to meet them or work with them — I got to coach mine.”

Fernando Sanchez has never compared his teams to prior teams or his players to other players. Each year, he has tried to maximize the potential and get the most out of each team and player. This past year, he feels like the kids gave their best effort and played up to their capabilities.

“Senior Night was pretty cool going out there with my dad,” Delainy Sanchez said. “Him being right there. It was pretty memorable.”

Delainy Sanchez played basketball for her father, Fernando Sanchez. But, it was another thing to live in the same house. With her dad as coach, it was harder to leave basketball in the gym. Many times games and practices carried over at home, and when it did, the two would usually talk things through.

“Honestly, at times it could get kind of frustrating because he’s my dad,” Delainy Sanchez said. “I wouldn’t want to play for anyone else. He’s taught me to speak up for myself and to know what is right and what’s not.”

Coaching his daughter

Fernando Sanchez feels that coaching his daughter Delainy Sanchez, there was no change over to separate home from basketball. Fernando Sanchez feels basketball was such a part of their lives. If he wasn’t her coach, she would be telling the family about games and practices anyway.

“To think that we have both handled things right all the time is not true,” Fernando said. “We both have had situations where we could have handled them better. I don’t think they were struggles but great memories, and great things we could do together. I get emotional thinking about not seeing her every day next year and not having her here.”

Delainy’s favorite memory

One of Delainy Sanchez’s favorite memories of this past season was the game against Centennial at home. Fernando Sanchez asked her if she knew what time she went into the game. Fernando told her the time she went into the game, it was at 5:41 to play in the first quarter. Fernando said it was his favorite moment of her career as a varsity player.

“It just dawned on me,” Fernando Sanchez said. “She (Delainy) earned it, playing time was never given to her. I will never forget that moment. I smiled to myself and had to refocus.

“When my dad, (Fernando) told me that,” Delainy Sanchez said, “it was my favorite moment of the year.”

There is no chance of Delainy Sanchez following in her dad’s footsteps on the bench. She wants to be a large animal veterinarian. After taking a class in large animal science, she fell in love with cows and wants to be a veterinarian to cows, sheep and horses. She will attend New Mexico State University.

Delainy Sanchez counts Lovington and the Los Alamos wins as her favorite wins in her career. No matter the results on the court, both father and daughter shared memories that will last them both a lifetime.

“There were times I was rougher on her than other players,” Fernando Sanchez said. “Every time I was tougher on her. I get a little emotional about her. She’s been in the program for four years. I think there’s a great relationship we have built over the years, and she is always daddy’s princess.”

Fernando Sanchez wishes the Lady Coyotes could have won more last year, but he is happy with the improvement the team showed. His goal as a coach is to make sure his teams work hard every day and get better. Fernando Sanchez tries to make sure his players understand what it’s like to be part of a team, and to him, a team is bigger than themselves. He tries to teach his players life lessons and that wins and losses are lessons to be learned.

“No matter what,” Fernando Sanchez said, “we (Delainy and I) love each other first and foremost. I think she’s a great kid, and this has been my favorite season.”

Sports editor J.T. Keith can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 304, or sports@rdrnews.com.