Cole DeShazer has had a front-row seat as 3-year-old Riverdale Ridge High School started its foray into the world of prep athletics.
He’s an assistant coach on the softball team, which qualified for the state playoffs the past two seasons. DeShazer also holds the same position on the Ravens’ baseball team. And in both instances, the head coach is his high-school coach, Ray Garza.
“I got my start after my freshman year of college. One of my friends, Brian Kelley, was hired on as a pitching coach for Brighton’s B Legion summer team,” DeShazer said. “The head coach of that team ended up quitting right before the first practice, and Brian was a little panicked about being on his own because it would’ve only been him and Dante Archuleta. I told him to ask Garza if I would be able to come on and help out, however possible.”
DeShazer’s picture of “duties as assigned” was a lot of paperwork.
“In my mind, it would’ve been the more meticulous things, like making sure the Legion forms were uploaded and filled out, that we had birth certificates on hand, etc.,” he said. “At the first practice, Brian kind of hesitated to start talking to the team.
So I jumped in and took the lead. After that, I was somehow the ‘appointed’ head coach and the rest is history.”
His first coaching season went pretty well.
“We had a great summer and actually did pretty well,” DeShazer said. “After we were eliminated, I went up to Garza and thanked him for letting me have the team for the summer and to let me know if he had any openings in the future. He kinda laughed and said something to the extent of, ‘Oh, you’re coming back next year.’”
DeShazer played for Garza in high school through 2014 and since 2015 as one of his assistants.
“He’s had a huge impact on me, and I cherish our relationship very much,” DeShazer said. “I take pride in being someone that he can trust to run a team or take over a practice or whatever he needs me to do. He’s taught me a tremendous amount, taking me to coaching conferences in Dallas and Atlantic City. Whenever he comes up with practice plans he runs them through with me while the girls are stretching, and it’s nice to see the master plan of how we are going to address the issues we see during games.”
The help comes in a professional form, too.
“He’s taught me a tremendous amount and, from a personal standpoint, he’s become a great friend– very significant impact he’s had on me,” DeShazer said.
When he started coaching, DeShazer took some traits from Garza and other coaches.
“One hundred percent. I took everything I’ve learned from previous coaches into coaching now, from Coach Pat Tabor coaching me from when I first started, to Coach Josh Mondragon and Coach Ray Garza in high school to Coach (Steve) Spongberg and Coach Bret Wells in my time in Hastings,” DeShazer said. “I think every coach that is coaching now and every coach that ever will coach takes what they know and have seen from other coaches and use that as a starting point.
“It’s really somewhat of a buffet,” he continued. “You take what you like and leave what you don’t. The first year is really about finding out who you are as a coach and finding that identity for yourself. But I think every coach’s starting point comes from taking what they’ve learned from those that coached them.”
DeShazer said he had his mindset on coaching from the age of 12.
“I wasn’t as good as my teammates — I wasn’t that good in general,” he said. “I reached a point where I was really discouraged, and concurrently, had a great time helping coach my little brother’s T-Ball team. To me, that was my first taste, and I knew that was something I wanted to do. It was explained to me I had to keep playing to learn more so that I could be an effective coach.
But yeah, I’ve seriously entertained coaching well beforehand.”
Aside from involvement in sports, DeShazer outlined other perks of coaching.
“The relationships are first and foremost. I take a lot of pride in forming long-term relationships with the athletes, not just on the field but on a personal level too,” he said. “I try — and am not always successful — to know what is going on in my athlete’s lives if they’re willing to let me in on that level. Even if it is a simple ‘How was school today?” — just something to let them know I care about them as more than a player but as a person also.
“Secondly it’s teaching,” DeShazer continued. “When I first started coaching, winning was the most important thing to me. Winning is still – and always will be – highly important to me. But it’s become more about teaching life lessons, things like work ethic, determination, persistence. If we as a staff can teach and instill those traits, the wins will take care of themselves. But that’s a trait that will serve the athletes throughout their life and not just one season.”
DeShazer met his wife, Joslynn, through coaching. She played and coached at Brighton High School.
“I guess if there was something I needed to add, it’s just how much I enjoy it. Coaching is the type of thing that gives and gives. It’s how I got reconnected with the woman who is now my wife, it’s how I met my in-laws,” he said. “It’s where our poor daughter is going to get dragged along, too, for her entire childhood. I spend four months out of the year doing the best I can for my girls at Riverdale and then spend the remaining eight months looking forward to preseason workouts in July. I’ve formed some great relationships with student-athletes over the last six years that I wouldn’t trade for anything.
“Coaching gives me a purpose I didn’t know I had before I started,” he added. “And to that, and everything else I owe the largest thank you to Coach Garza for taking a chance on me when I was a 19-year-old college kid, not having a clue of what I was doing. I also owe a thank you to both players and parents, past, present and future for trusting me to work with their kids. Not all of them have loved me, and that’s OK.
“I just hope I was able to contribute half as much to all of their lives as they have to mine.”