Former Belen AD takes over Calvary Academy athletics

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To say the way former Belen Schools athletic director and Belen High School girls basketball coach Danny Griego found himself sitting in the athletic director/girls basketball seat at Belen’s Calvary Chapel Academy is fortuitous is an understatement.

Griego recently took over the AD and coaching duties at CCA, a small, private Christian school in Belen. The move came after retirement at the Belen Schools, where he taught and coached for 35 years.

Kenn Rodriguez-News-Bulletin photo: FORMER BELEN SCHOOLS Athletic Director Danny Griego recently took over the athletic director and girls basketball head coaching duties for Belen’s Calvary Chapel Academy.

Griego retired from teaching at Belen High in 2012 and then from coaching after the 2013 season. He was looking around to “help out” when he contacted a pal at the New Mexico Activities Association.

When Griego mentioned he was looking at small schools in Albuquerque, the friend, Rudy Aragon, advised him to “look in his backyard” — at CCA,

Griego, a devout Christian who already attended Calvary Chapel with his wife, Mary, says he prayed on the idea, and got advice from his wife.

“She said, ‘This is perfect,’” he recalls. “‘This is discipleship,’” she went on. “‘This is a private school where you can talk about Christ and walking that path.’

“‘Why don’t you call them and see what they say?’” she asked him.

CCA headmaster Shaun Gibson, says the school wasn’t even advertising for an AD, much less a coach.

“We hadn’t posted the position,” said Gibson. “We were just praying. I had known Danny before when we worked together in FCA (Fellowship of Christian Athletes). I thought he had come to talk about FCA. It was just a providential thing.”

Griego takes over a program in its second year as a provisional member of the NMAA in Class B, the division that houses schools with 75 or fewer high school students. (It will be rechristened Class A in 2014 when the NMAA goes to six classes — Class A to Class 6A.)

The school just finished its third year of offering sports with girls basketball, volleyball, boys basketball and boys and girls track at both the high school and middle school level, although only high schoolers play in NMAA-sanctioned events.

Griego says the school previously participated in the Albuquerque Christian Athletics Association, a nine-team league that is basically club level. Two years ago, Calvary Chapel Academy looked at moving its Warriors into the NMAA. Now a year into the NMAA provisionary process, Gibson says hiring Garcia is a way to “get up to the next level.”

“With his connections and expertise, we thought Danny was a perfect fit,” says Gibson. “It was obviously the right step.”

Griego says the folks at CCA are “Good people to work with.”

“I’ve been really impressed with their whole approach to everything,” Griego says. “The coaches are mostly volunteer. They’re there for all the right reasons.”

Griego says the school is looking into expanding its sports programs in the future, possibly adding inexpensive sports like cross country while keeping an eye toward sports like soccer.

But the school is just beginning to gear up in terms of facilities, beginning to get a running track and playing field together behind on the school property. CCA’s volleyball and basketball teams play and practice at the Belen’s Eagle Park Community Center and will for the foreseeable future while the school looks at options for building its own gym, which Gibson says is part of the schools’ “long-range plan.”

But Griego says the school will listen to parents and students as it has in the past in terms of additional sports at the school.

“We’ll see what the interest level is in other sports is down the road,” he says. “But right now we want to really focus on these sports and build them so we’re proud of them and how they represent our school.”

Griego is finishing his first open gym for prospective girls basketball players at Eagle Park, where he’s met with players Tuesday and Thursday mornings since the beginning of June. He says CCA is committed to its athletics programs.

“Obviously, we’re pushing forward as aggressively as we can,” Griego says. “I’m happy with the growth I’ve seen and look forward to continued growth. We’re doing everything for the kids. Every year we’ve gone above and beyond, so I’m very excited.”

Both Gibson and Griego are shooting high when it comes to long-term goals for the Warriors’ sports squads.

“I think it’d be really cool to be (Class) 1A state champs,” Gibson says enthusiastically. “That’s Danny’s goal. He seems to think no reason we can’t get there. That’s what we’re shooting for. Might as well shoot for the top.”

“We didn’t want to have second-rate anything when we started,” he says, “We wanted to eclipse everything around us. And we don’t want athletics to be second rate either.”