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Episode Show Notes
In this episode, Mike sits down with SFC’s head football coach, John Wallace, and SFC alumni, basketball and football coach, Carter Roberts, to discuss athletic mentorship at SFC.
Mike Siciliano, Upper School Dean of Students, has a long history with Sante Fe Christian, sitting in several roles including alumnus, US history teacher, and football coach. As a student, Siciliano felt he had teachers and coaches who personally invested in him and made a huge difference in his life. Now, he tries every day to continue that legacy for current SFC students, live up to the standard his teachers set for him, and have a lot of fun.
Carter Roberts, SFC alumni and coach, graduated from Santa Fe Christian in 2015 and attended Wheaton College where he played collegiate football. He now serves as a SFC football and basketball coach as well as an area manager for Fellowship of Christian Athletes, pouring into and discipling student-athletes in the San Diego region.
John Wallace, head varsity football coach, has been an integral part of the Santa Fe Christian community since 2004 serving in multiple capacities as a coach in the athletics department as well as a social science and Bible teacher. He is passionate about helping young people grow in knowledge and wisdom of Jesus Christ through the vehicle of sports and education.
00:00:00 — Introductions
00:02:50 — How SFC encourages student-to-student mentorships in athletics
00:05:15 — How students develop mentorship skills through leadership opportunities in the program
00:06:39 — The importance of fostering a culture and expectation of student leadership and mentorship
00:09:52 — The importance of the SFC Leadership Academy
00:11:56 — The legacy and impact of student mentors at SFC
00:18:36 — How to inspire organic mentorship
00:23:05 — How the SFC community continues after high school
00:26:13 — The role of coaching mentorship in SFC athletics
00:29:28 — Intentional mentorship in the girls’ volleyball program
Mike Siciliano [00:00:04] Welcome to another episode of The Eagle Perspective podcast. We are going to today be looking at mentorship on campus, specifically through athletics. I’m joined by a couple of amazing guests, our head football coach, John Wallace, and an alumni, FCA Director at Santa Fe, and also a football coach, Carter Roberts. Guys, thanks for being here.
Carter Roberts [00:00:26] Thanks for having us.
John Wallace [00:00:27] Yeah, absolutely. It’s a pleasure.
Mike Siciliano [00:00:28] John, thanks for being here. And why don’t you share just how long you’ve been at Santa Fe and what roles you’ve had here?
John Wallace [00:00:33] First of all, thanks for having me. It’s just a privilege to be able to talk about the heart of the school and how that takes place in athletics, but I’ve been here for 17 years now. I’ve taught a lot of different things from Bible to government to econ, then in and out of being an ASB director, coached high school football and middle school basketball. So, lots of different facets in the school over the years as my role has evolved and changed.
Mike Siciliano [00:00:58] Well, we’re really glad to have you here. I know you know a lot about this topic. And then Carter, you want to share a little bit about when you graduated, and what you’ve been up to since leaving Santa Fe?
Carter Roberts [00:01:06] Sure, I’d love to. Yeah, thanks for having me on here. And I feel really lucky to be a part of this conversation with two Santa Fe legends, you and Coach Wallace. But for myself, yeah, I went to Santa Fe Christian fourth grade through senior year and graduated from Santa Fe in 2015. Played football and basketball in high school. And then I went to Wheaton College in Chicago, and I played football there for four years. Now I am on staff with Fellowship of Christian Athletes here in San Diego. So, I work with a handful of local high schools and middle schools in the area, doing a lot of stuff around mentorship, building relationships, and then I also coach football and basketball here at Santa Fe Christian. So, it’s a privilege to be a part of the community for a long time. My parents also work here. So, Santa Fe Christian is a large part of my story. So, privileged to be a part of this conversation.
Mike Siciliano [00:01:57] Well, really glad you could join us. And I think we have to acknowledge, since Carter said nice things about John and I, that when it comes to football, he reports to both of us. So, any of his praise for us is a little bit suspect. I think that’s fair.
Carter Roberts [00:02:11] I think it’s also fair that one of the reasons he’s on here is he’s one of those redemption stories where we just didn’t know how it was going to turn out. But he really turned it around at the last minute. So, it’s good.
Mike Siciliano [00:02:23] Well, I got to say, the truth is, I’m not surprised you’re here, Carter, talking about student mentorship, because when he was a student, and we were both coaching then, he was really good at it. So I can vouch that he’s an expert in this topic.
Carter Roberts [00:02:36] I appreciate you saying that. I don’t know if I would go as far to say I was an expert. I think I could definitely have done a better job. But I appreciate that.
Mike Siciliano [00:02:44] I was just trying to be nice, because you’re nice to me, Carter. So, let’s get to some of these questions. Athletics is a huge part of the Santa Fe experience. More than 80% of our students in the high school level participate in at least one sport. Our Middle School program is very robust. And we have a growing lower school program, as well. So, John, as the head coach of one of our bigger programs, maybe you can talk a little bit about the ways that student-to-student mentorships or relationships between students are encouraged in the program.
John Wallace [00:03:16] Yeah, absolutely, I think, really, at the heart of Santa Fe is we’re a relational school. And obviously, we center that with our relationship with Christ and encouraging growth in that, but then also in our relationships with each other. And I think one of the advantages that we have, or the culture that’s been established, is because we’re this K-12 campus and because a lot of our sports within them, it’s not so much grade separation; there’s just a ton of natural interaction that happens between kids and relationships that are fostered. And I can think of a kid that played quarterback here quite a while, not Carter. Someone else played quarterback and had a lot of different roles was on this Associated Student Body was in the musical. And he was just very intentional about taking kids that he saw reflections of himself in and grabbing lunch with them, and doing a Bible study with them, and fostering an organic type of mentorship. And then I think we have examples of that. But I think we also have examples of more structured things where in a program like football—and we’re not unique to this at all — we’ll have experiences during our “Hell week” or camp that we have during the summer, where our coach has a group of 10 kids that he gets to be the chaperone over where we sleep on campus for a couple of nights when we’re doing football. And they’ll meet, and do devotions, and have discussions, and it’s 9th through 12th graders. And so, it starts to foster connections of having those groups together. And in each different sport that takes those types of experiences, I think, a priority of fostering those relationships. And I think one of the things that I’ve heard from kids that have graduated is the things they remember the most is having the opportunity to have those close interactions and mentorships with the older kids that they looked up to so much and said, “You know, I want to have an experience like that person,” or “I want to end up being more like that person.” And having that close-up experience is a little bit, I think, unique to Santa Fe.
Mike Siciliano [00:05:09] And John, I know you do some things specifically with the seniors, like take them up to the Sierras and in Hell week I know there’s tribes, and there’s different sort of leadership opportunities for students. Can you speak a little bit about that as far as how they develop skills to be mentors?
John Wallace [00:05:28] Yep, absolutely. So, we believe that we’re going to have buy-in to our program if we’re specifically talking about football if there’s the ownership on the kids. And so, to get that you need to give them responsibility. And right from the beginning, in a normal season, we’d start off in the summer… Actually, we would start off in the spring, where we take the seniors bowling, and we would create a draft, where we would draft tribes, and based on how you bowled you got to pick people to be in your tribe. And that tribe then stays together on and off throughout the season, where they do competitions together. That’s the group that’s going to sleep together when we’re sleeping on campus. And the coaches then focus their efforts pouring into relationally into the tribe leaders, which are all the seniors. They’re all tribe leaders. We take them up backpacking in the Sierras, where we don’t talk about football, really, at all. We talk about Jesus; we talk about being a man; we talk about how to influence other people so that, hopefully, they can start to garner some of those techniques, and skills, and passion to pour into the tribemates that are under their influence as they go through there. So, there’s accountability that’s built into that. If a kid’s not at practice one day in the summer or whatever, the senior is going to be like, “Hey, we missed you. Where were you? We want you here,” that kind of stuff. But it’s again, just building those relationships that cross through the grade levels.
Mike Siciliano [00:06:39] And Carter, you have a really unique lens on this, as well, with your work at Fellowship of Christian Athletes. I mean, I know you’re on lots of different high school campuses, and then you’re coaching in our program. What are some ways or some things that you’ve seen on campus at Santa Fe that have helped develop those mentors or encourage that student-to-student mentorship, either through FCA or through our athletics programs?
Carter Roberts [00:07:05] Yeah, I think when I hear the word student-to-student mentorship, I think I almost like the word friendship even better. I think it’s good to put it in that perspective because I think sometimes maybe for a high schooler it’s hard for them to picture themselves being a mentor when they’re 16 or 17 years old, but to frame it as hey, you’re really just a friend of this person, and you’re caring for them, loving them, encouraging them, and coming alongside them just like a friend would. But it might be that you’re a few years older than them, or you’re in a stage of life or in a walk of life with your relationship with the Lord where you might be able to encourage them, and you’re maybe a step ahead. So, I like using that word. I think what I’ve seen at Santa Fe, and also through FCA, is that I think a culture has to be created where that’s expected and encouraged, where students or athletes aren’t surprised by the fact that they’re expected to be a leader or to be a mentor. I think when that culture is created, they’ve seen it modeled by coaches, or staff, or teachers who are a little bit older than them, and then that ownership is actually taken by them. I think that’s where you see it take off. And so, what I’ve tried to do in my coaching, and I’ve even seen modeled by coaches at Santa Fe and people that I’ve known in my life, is I try to model that for students by spending time with them relationally and building relationships with them, and then on the back end, saying, “Hey, basically, what I’ve done with you in building a relationship, spending time with you, encouraging you, doing things like Bible studies or just having real conversations about life, that’s really what it takes to be a great friend, or a mentor, or a leader in somebody’s life.” So, I think that’s one way that I’ve seen it modeled in FCA and at Santa Fe, and I think is what I think of when I think about student-to-student mentorship.
Mike Siciliano [00:08:50] You guys do a great job of it, too, with our FCA Club at Santa Fe. I mean, I see on social media, and just knowing a lot of those kids, it seems like the leaders of FCA, the student leaders, have a huge influence in what activities the group takes on, and you really foster that. Am I right about that from what it looks like from the outside?
Carter Roberts [00:09:13] Yes, absolutely. Yeah, definitely. I think when you find kids like the students who are involved with FCA on campus at Santa Fe or other schools, it’s a lot of those kids who I think do want to build relationships with their friends or other kids on campus. And so, it’s really cool to see those students take ahold of that and even bring younger students under their arms, I know we’re talking about Santa Fe, but I’ve got stories from other schools, where there’s girls or guys who see a younger kid in the FCA Club or a younger kid on campus who’s struggling with something, and they take them underneath their wing. And so, I think that’s something that’s super valuable and I’ve definitely seen at Santa Fe Christian in my experience.
Mike Siciliano [00:09:52] So, in thinking about… Whether it’s football, FCA, I think about our other programs on campus. I mean, I know Coach basically in the basketball program has a very intentional student leadership piece. And then the athletics department as a whole with the Leadership Academy really is a whole program geared towards how do we develop student leaders? How do we identify them in their freshman, sophomore year, train them in their junior year so they’re the chief mentors, or, to use Carter’s word, the friends in chief, in that leadership component when they’re a senior? So, why is it that this is so important across our athletics program? I mean, what is it about this topic? What are the benefits for kids? Why do we believe in it so much?
John Wallace [00:10:36] I think it’s interesting. It always shocks me. Sometimes we’ll do lower school events, where we’ll bring our lower kids up, and we’ll do a football clinic, or a basketball clinic, or something. The other sports do it, as well. But you see sides to the high schoolers that are giving service or giving themselves away in these environments to volunteer to help that you never would see in a normal reaction. And I think it reveals something that’s a part of who we are as people, that we’re built to pour into other people, and we’re built to serve other people in that capacity, especially people that we might be a few more miles down the road from. And so, I think having those experiences and interaction fosters that and creates a hunger for that in young people as they’re growing into their own and realizing that they do have something to give back, and they do have something to pour into other people. And so, I think it’s a huge part of when we talk about developing leaders, having those opportunities like Leadership Academy or the way that different programs foster the relational aspect of their sport that has made it a priority because we’ve seen the fruit of it and what it brings out in kids.
Mike Siciliano [00:11:42] I mean, to some extent part of our vision statement is preparing the Christian leaders of tomorrow, and it certainly feels like athletics has become a huge way, where we’re giving them practical skills and opportunities to do that. So, Carter, I want to hear from you a little bit. Put yourself back in the mindset of high school Carter. And I know it’s hard to sift through all those athletic achievements, all those memories of physical greatness in your head. So, I’m going to ask you to put that aside a little bit but share with us. Remind me of the sports that you played and if you have any experiences through those various sports of where a student really came alongside you, was a good friend to you, a mentor to you. I’d love to hear a couple of those.
Carter Roberts [00:12:34] Yeah, it’s going to be tough for me to forget all the accolades, the trophies, the recognition, but I’ll look past that.
Mike Siciliano [00:12:41] It was mostly good coaching, let’s be honest.
Carter Roberts [00:12:45] Yeah. So, at Santa Fe I played football for four years; I played basketball for four years. I actually loved baseball growing up. So, I played baseball for my first two years of high school. And then at that point, I had gotten burnt out on baseball. So, I ran track in the spring for one year. And then my spring senior year, I decided not to finish out the perfect high school career of playing sports, and I took a season off, which, in hindsight, I maybe shouldn’t have done. But in the moment, it was really nice to have a little bit of a break and enjoy the end of senior year, which now I know a lot of seniors during coronavirus would probably love to enjoy at the end of senior year, doing everything that Santa Fe does, which is fun. So, I got to enjoy that. But yeah, so, playing all those sports. I think there’s a ton of stories. But if I’m correct, I think Coach Wallace might have been mentioning earlier the quarterback who I overlapped with a little bit. I wouldn’t say that we were best friends, but it was cool to have somebody who in a way was not in my ballpark socially, or… Yeah, we were just a few years apart. And it seemed like he was way cooler than I was in different ways, and was more accomplished on the football field, and all that stuff, but was the guy that seemed to really care about me. And on the football field, he would take me under his wing and coach me up on different stuff on the football field, and then outside of that was also super encouraging. So, for me, that’s a memory of somebody who did student-to-student mentorship in a very natural, organic way. It wasn’t like we sat down and went through this criteria of a Bible study, or about leadership, or something. But it was really just, hey, he was going to use his platform to impact somebody younger than him by coaching them up on a football field, showing them that he cares, and just building a relationship with them.
John Wallace [00:14:28] Mike, I’ll flip the question back on you, because I think Carter alluded to the fact that it’s a culture that fosters relationships, where you get those interactions that are more organic and natural. And I almost feel like you’ve told stories, even when you were playing football here, of seniors when you were a freshman that just left an impact of kindness and encouragement to grow in your faith and who you are as a young man. I vaguely remember you telling some stories like that, but I think that’s been here for a long time.
Mike Siciliano [00:14:54] Yeah, there is a great legacy of that. I mean, I remember as a freshman there was a junior guy on the football team who would literally invite the entire team to his house for a Bible study on Monday nights. And so, I would get a ride over from an upperclassman. And his mom would cook all this food for whoever showed up. And I got to know a bunch of older kids that way and see them worshipping and see them in the word. And, yeah, that had a huge impact on me. And a couple of those guys I’m really good friends with today. And just as a freshman starting football, it can be a little intimidating, and those guys made it easy for me. So yeah, absolutely. That was pretty big for me. I know that was a long time ago now in the Dark Ages. But I appreciate you asking about it, John. Thank you.
Carter Roberts [00:15:45] If I could add something to this conversation that you just reminded me of. I think an a really important part of this conversation and this part of Santa Fe Christian is letting the students know how much of an impact they actually can have. For you, Mike, you still have those memories of you going to worship nights that juniors and seniors were at, and how they were worshipping, and how they were leading Bible studies. I think sometimes high schoolers don’t actually realize the influence they can have in a bad way and in a good way. So, I think a lot of this happening comes down to coaches, to staff, to teachers letting them know, hey, there’s freshmen and sophomores on the campus who are watching every single move you make. And when they’re juniors and seniors, they’re going to do the same thing. And I know it’s something that we harp in the football program and in the basketball program, as well, is that they’re creating a culture as juniors and seniors that’s going to continue on because the younger kids are watching them. And so as much as coaches, we want to think that our voice is always being heard, the truth is that sometimes players can become numb to what coaches are saying at some point, and they’re going to listen to their peers even more, and they respect their peers. You see that in so many ways over the summer at football workouts. You just see freshmen watching the seniors lift and run like, “Oh, my gosh, these guys are incredible,” and all they’re doing is running around and working out. But when those guys or gals can turn that into encouragement and actually fostering relationships with their impact, I think that’s where it becomes incredible.
John Wallace [00:17:20] I think I’d add to that, too, relationship is, from my perspective, really built through experience. And we already said this a little bit. But since we have multiple grade levels that go through these experiences together, it creates this natural opportunity for older kids and younger kids to interact in that capacity. And I remember, Carter when you were a freshman coming into football and your whole class, and it was pretty intimidating, and then just watching you go through. And I think I’ve heard you even say your favorite part of football was the summer, being with the guys, because you’re experiencing things together as a group, and you’re building these relationships, not even being overtly intentional about mentorship, but they’re watching all that you’re doing to try to be great, make the team great, encourage each other, and all that kind of stuff. And so, you’re sowing these seeds just out of the opportunity that you have to be together and have these experiences together. Which I think is a big part of Santa Fe, whether you’re talking about mission trips, or the theatre department or sports is having those multiple grade levels, crossing over different disciplines, an athlete being in the musical and going on a mission trip with a kid that doesn’t play sports or whatever it might be, those experiences build relationships that ultimately shape each other.
Mike Siciliano [00:18:36] Yeah. I mean, it’s so interesting hearing you both talk. Carter, you mentioned the word organic. When you were talking about the player who was older than you, it just felt super natural. So, it’s interesting, because, on the one hand, we’ve talked about how intentional we are with this, right, how important it is for us to create student-to-student mentorships to build those friendships. And then, on the other hand, we’re also acknowledging the importance of how it needs to feel authentic and organic. So, as coaches, how do you inspire mentorship in a way that is organic, and not just something that kids are doing to check a box?
John Wallace [00:19:16] I mean, I look at it as exactly what Carter was saying, is it’s relationship. I think probably the strongest part of our athletics department across all the sports is the relational nature of the coach/player relationship, not that there’s not challenging parts. But I think that fosters the ability for, then, older kids with younger kids because they’re learning how to do that and interact in that capacity. So, I think, Carter, you were so spot on with just not labeling it just mentorship but relationship. And it naturally becomes mentorship when it’s someone that’s had more experience and less experience as they’re going through their journey at the school.
Carter Roberts [00:19:57] I think with that question, there’s two things that come to mind. And one is, like Coach Wallace said, we’ve talked about modeling it from a coach to a player so that they see how it’s done and they can replicate that. But I think, also, there’s building in practices or things into the program that become a consistent thing. So, we talked about the football program is the tribe system. And so, that’s something that we create but then becomes something organic, because senior, junior, or sophomore freshmen are all in a group together, and they spend however many days, eight to nine months together, working out, going through competition, spending time together. And so, that happens organically. On the basketball program, there’s preseason workouts, and workouts during the season, and practices where the teams just overlap. And so, I think that’s something very unique about Santa Fe Christian is that because we are a smaller school, a lot of our programs do activities and practices from freshman to senior level, JV, and varsity. So, that’s something that’s unique, where that just creates an environment where there’s organic mentorship going on because they’re just times spent together like Coach Wallace said, experiences, I think, fosters relationship which fosters that mentorship that we’re talking about.
Mike Siciliano [00:21:14] Yeah, it’s funny. It’s almost like there is something natural in the kids that they long for this. They have a natural call to relationship. And I think the older kids naturally feel like they want to help. And it’s almost just coaching them with some tools and providing the opportunity. And most of the time I feel like it just happens. And it’s almost a reflection of God’s design.
John Wallace [00:21:39] Yeah, I totally agree with that. And I feel like I’m continually surprised by how prevalent that is in kids. And I gave the example of when we have the lower school kids up. We haven’t done this in a while, but we used to take seniors and juniors down to read to elementary school kids. And it just brought out this joy in them of being able to do that and almost feeling the image of God that’s in them being revealed of like, “Wow, this is actually really satisfying to love and serve someone that’s not as far along the journey as I am.” And I think that’s a huge joy of what we get to witness as they’re growing from freshmen to seniors.
Carter Roberts [00:22:15] And I think this is a lifelong thing. Just like you mentioned, Mike, I have a few different stories of these relationships that I built when I was there with guys older than me but also guys younger than me that are still going on, that are still being built, and this story is still being written. There’s even a kid who’s a senior at Santa Fe Christian right now who I met when he was in elementary school, and now he’s a kid that I spend time with. We go golfing together, and we get lunch together. So, I think it’s really cool to see the Lord write that story from a handful of years ago, and it’s still working through those relationships. So, I think that just puts into perspective how the Lord can work over a long period of time, and it’s really cool to see that happen.
Mike Siciliano [00:22:59] Yeah, wait until those guys come back and start coaching with you; you get a whole different side of them. So, Carter, we already talked about you played football at Wheaton, and some of these relationships through Santa Fe guys you played with or people who played ahead of you, people you were younger than, I know your story involves both ends of that, of how you ended up at Wheaton and then other Santa Fe athletes going to Wheaton. So, maybe you can share a little bit of that story.
Carter Roberts [00:23:24] Yeah, I would love to. During my senior year, I realized that I wanted to play football in college. Due to not being a phenomenal athlete and other reasons, I realized that I had to go the division three route, which ended up, in the long run, being a tremendous blessing. Had a lot of encouragement to go that route from Coach Wallace, and other coaches, and our coaching staff who had played division three football. And so, looked at a bunch of different schools across the country, and it got narrowed down to schools in the Midwest. And then a few weeks before I was going out to Chicago to visit a different school out there, a guy named Colin Sinclair ran into my dad at a coffee shop in the area. And Colin… Short story on Colin is that you actually—right Mike?—you went to Santa Fe with Colin?
Mike Siciliano [00:24:10] I did. He was a teammate of mine.
Carter Roberts [00:24:12] Yeah. So, Colin went to Santa Fe Christian, and then he went to Wheaton and played football there. And then after graduating from Wheaton, he came back to San Diego and came on staff with FCA. And so, Colin sees my dad, tells him that I need to go to Wheaton for a visit, that it would be a great fit for me, that I owe Colin a visit there just to check it out. So, long story short, I ended up going to Wheaton for, really, a few hours. And I walk out of the rec center doors, and I turned to my mom, and I just said, “I know this is the place that I need to go to.” And so, I ended up going to Wheaton for four years. While I was at Wheaton, there were a few guys from the Santa Fe Christian football program who came on a few visits and stayed with me. Guys like Joe Burrage, and Josh Thomas, and Isaiah Love, and Caleb Phillips, and Chase Backabee. There was a bunch of different names there. A few of them ended up coming to Wheaton. Isaiah Love, I believe, is a senior there right now. He’s maybe a junior. But it was really cool because Isaiah and I didn’t even play at Santa Fe together. But I think our common bond of playing at Santa Fe Christian and having similar beliefs and values from the football program and from the school led to him trusting my opinion of Wheaton and my experience. And so, it was really cool to see him come to Wheaton, and we had overlap for one year. But I think that’s an example of the community of Santa Fe and how someone’s experience can have an impact on one person’s experience and can have this ripple effect down the line to where Colin Sinclair, when he was 16 or 17 years old, thinking about going to Wheaton, probably had no idea that it was going to impact Isaiah Love in 2017, 2018, and him going to Wheaton and changing his life. So, you hear those stories, and it’s so cool to know that through coaches, through other athletes, through all the relationships at Santa Fe, there’s this mentorship in a way that impacts people’s lives forever.
Mike Siciliano [00:26:06] And I think we’ve talked a lot about the student mentorship piece, but the coaching mentorship piece is also, obviously, a huge part of SFC athletics. And I think, Carter, you and I can both speak to that. As far as those relationships continuing beyond high school and into college, I got to coach with some people who coached me; you’re now coaching with us. John, you can talk about as the head coach of a program that coaching mentorship piece in the role that that plays in our athletics programs.
John Wallace [00:26:34] So, I mean, it’s almost hard to talk about, because it just feels like such a foundational piece of who we are and what’s been established here from years and years and years and years ago. And it’s the guys that want to come and coach here, want to build relationships and pour into young men’s lives in the hopes that it’ll bear fruit for them. And so, like my wife always asks me, “Why do you love to coach football?” and I say, “Well, as an old man, there’s nothing that can make me throw my hands up in the air out of despair or joy in a 30-second window like football.” But even more importantly than that, the relationships that I developed that last with players, and other coaches, and just the community is so rich. And getting texts from kids that are going through really hard stuff in college right now, whatever that may be about, like, “Hey, Coach, what do you think about this, and what about that?” I think a lot of our coaches have those connections with kids. And so, I can’t even say it’s this institutional piece that’s articulated anywhere other than that it seems to be one of the main arteries or fibers of what the program is about. And I can’t articulate why that is; it’s just what God’s, I think, fostered in our program. But Mike, you have just as much a perspective on that. Can you articulate that in more how it’s systematically put in there?
Mike Siciliano [00:27:52] Yeah. I think we hire coaches who love students and are there for investing in them as much or more as they are for the sports. And that’s not to say the sports aren’t important.
John Wallace [00:28:05] Whenever I interview a coach, it always starts off with, “The number one thing I’m looking for is that you have a relationship with Jesus, that you love kids, and that you want to pour into their lives,” and then, “I hope you know a little bit about football.” And that’s the priority list of how we start the conversation. And I think having that perspective has brought in guys that truly believe in that kind of passion.
Mike Siciliano [00:28:25] Yeah, I think that’s true through all our programs, I think about my senior year basketball coach who came and… We won a CIF championship. But he was at my wedding. He and his wife led a couple’s Bible study that a bunch of my teammates and I after we got married in our mid-20s, for a number of years were a part of that. And it’s just a great example of that mentorship. Starting in high school, we knew that he loved us and cared about us and that we could go to him and talk about things, and that really hasn’t ever stopped. That’s really the backbone of our program.
John Wallace [00:29:03] I think the crazy part about that is because the relationships get built in that way, it actually leads to more success on the field. I think people are afraid to go to a small school because they want to be really good at sports. But because we actually prioritize things of trying to pursue Jesus and pursuing relationships with kids, we play with a passion for each other on the field that is as unique or is not very common, I think.
Mike Siciliano [00:29:28] So, John, can you think of some other programs that we have that are real intentional about this mentorship piece?
John Wallace [00:29:34] Yeah, absolutely. I think a really good example is our girls’ volleyball program, who has been wildly successful on the court. But even more so, I think, in building relationships and culture and even passing down, similar to the football program, multiple coaches that have come through. But the same culture has really remained of the Bible study groups, and opportunities for leadership, and how they mentor the young players that come in, and creating experiences like they sleep in the gym, and have crazy games and skip night, and all these things that are just building cohesive relationship between freshman to senior year. And I think it’s a pretty special culture. And I think it exists in a lot of our programs, not just the women’s volleyball, but that one really stands out to me.
Carter Roberts [00:30:16] Yeah. I was going to add to that that one of my coworkers within FCA is a girl named Megan Smith, and she is one of the assistant coaches for the volleyball team. And so, when we talk about coach-to-athlete mentorship, that’s a name and a coach that comes to mind, because I know she has a very similar heartbeat that I do. And I know that a large part of her life in ministry and coaching is pouring into the girls that she coaches. So, I know that’s something that is going on in the volleyball program, and that’s trickling down from girls on the varsity team to younger girls and to even just girls who are part of the FCA group on campus, because Megan’s main campus is Santa Fe Christian. So, she spends a ton of time with the FCA leaders on campus, which is half guys, half girls. They play soccer, volleyball, football, basketball, baseball; they play a bunch of different sports. So, I know that through Megan’s impact, she’s having a ton of impact through the entire campus in every sport by the way that she’s pouring into athletes who have a ton of impact on their team.
Mike Siciliano [00:31:17] John, Carter, thanks for joining me today on another episode of The Eagle Perspective. It was a lot of fun talking with you guys about mentorship and relationships. If you’re interested in learning more about Santa Fe Christian, we got lots of other episodes of our podcasts on our website or our YouTube channel. Feel free to check us out. And we’ll be back with another episode soon.