Rodriguez retires from Belen volleyball coaching position

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For more than 20 years, Barbara Rodriguez has been at the helm of the Belen High volleyball program.

That all ended in December when Rodriguez announced her retirement from coaching. She’ll remain as a teacher of five classes and as the school district’s Title IX compliance officer, but one of the longest continuous coaching stints in the county’s volleyball history is coming to an end.

News-Bulletin file photo: Barbara Rodriguez tries to reason with an official in a 2011 match. Rodriguez recently retired from the Belen High volleyball coach position that she held for 25 years.

Rodriguez, who took over as Belen’s coach in 1988, stepped down briefly in 2006, but returned to the helm when a satisfactory replacement could not be found. However, this retirement seems different, as Rodriguez has completed administrator certification training and, as the director of the Belen High pool for years, figures to have an expanded role in swimming as the new indoor BHS pool is constructed.

“I am not sure what the 2013-14 year will bring,” said Rodriguez. “I guess I will walk through that door when it comes. I would like to serve the district in the place I am most needed. We will find out as that approaches.”

Since 1998-99, according to News-Bulletin archives, the Eagles have posted a 97-175 record. Rodriguez has persevered through some tough times; the Lady Eagles have had losing records in 12 of the last 15 seasons, and went from 2000 to 2004 without winning a district match.

She was also the coach in 1993 when the Eagles last reached the state tournament. They beat Capital in the district semifinals and defeated Portales in the first round at state before falling to Aztec in the semifinals.

The Eagles have had a few more successful runs lately, including the 2008-09 and 2010-11 seasons, which included winning overall records and appearances in the District 6-4A championship match.

“My heart is embedded in volleyball,” said the retired coach. “I want the very best for the wonderful young ladies I coach. They are a part of my heart, and are cherished.”

Rodriguez said she is thankful to many school officials, coaches, family members and other for helping her along the way. The coach, who took over for Famie Trujillo in the late 1980s, said former BHS athletic director and administrator Jim Danner mentored her throughout her career.

Other inspirations were Evisalio “Bull” Padilla, Kenny Griego, Joanne Romero, Dennis White, Danny Montaño, Jessica Baldonado, Rebecca Trujillo, Leah Newton, Chris Chavez, Toby Manzanares, Kim Bell, Manuel Garley, Barbara Gallegos and Rebecca Dominguez.

Rodriguez also thanked her parents for their support, and her sons, Tomas and Nick, are still fixtures at BHS athletic events.

The vacancy created by Rodriguez’s retirement means there are two open volleyball coaching spots in the county. Karen Chavez resigned in December after two years as the Valencia High coach.

The veteran coach will continue in various responsibilities associated with the swimming pool. The aging outdoor pool will be open for at least one more summer, and it requires a great deal of direction simply to get it running and to meet regulations each year — not to mention tons of hours dedicated to swim meets and daily operations.

Rodriguez is also on the steering committee for the new indoor pool, which is in the design and budget stages. Construction is set to begin soon, and Rodriguez is almost certain to have an ongoing role in that process.

Rodriguez is also completing an administrative internship. A move out of the BHS athletic department, and perhaps away from the high school entirely, is certainly possible for her in the years ahead.

The coach said there are many people that helped her along the way in her coaching career. It would be difficult to list them all.

“There are so many people to thank; I do not want to exclude anyone,” she said. “Thank you, Belen, and the volleyball community.  I will always be ‘loyal and true’.”


-- Email the author at jbrooks@news-bulletin.com.