[Editor’s note: The idea behind “Alphabet Stories” is to write one noteworthy athletics-related story about each OSAA-member school. We started with Adrian HS on Sept.18. Today’s story, more than four months later, is about Colton High School. The goal will be to write two per week. While we will be relying upon athletic directors to furnish story ideas, anyone may offer suggestions by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org]
There’s a smile on the face of Colton athletic director Shawn Murray.
You’ll also find those smiles on the faces of principal Grant Hayball and most members of the Viking community for that matter.
The small 2A school, tucked between Estacada and Molalla, has three girls’ team sports. All are led by dynamic coaches committed to the athletes, the community and one another.
If that doesn’t make you smile, what will?
Softball coach Jim Brochis is the elder statesman among the head coaches. This is his ninth year at Colton. The Vikings have been to the state playoffs in five of the seven years that playoffs were held.
Shannon Weinberger is in her third year coaching the volleyball team. She coached volleyball in the middle school before that, and has five kids of her own with stories of competing for the school and in the community.
Valerie Wakefield started with the Colton girls basketball team in the 2019-2020 season. She has a small school background and learned the game under her father, Dave, who was coaching basketball before she was even born.
Like so many smaller Oregon towns, athletics are a life source for families from the time their children are very young. They are what bind the community together. Like so many similar communities, however, hiring capable high school coaches is a never ending challenge. So, when you find three girls’ coaches like Jim, Shannon and Valerie, all at the same time, you celebrate! With a smile, of course!
Because Colton has fewer than 200 students in grades 9-12, there are only so many girls to draw from to populate the volleyball, basketball and softball teams. Athlete sharing is commonplace at Colton. While that can be a source of conflict in many schools, it is embraced in Viking-land.
“We freely coordinate to share players without putting undue pressure to specialize in one program,” Jim said. “Playing multiple sports is better for the players’ health and development.”
“It is very typical for them to play three, maybe four sports during the school year, and then possibly practice all three in the same week any given summer!” Shannon exclaimed.
“Because we are a small school, we share a lot of athletes, but I don't see that as an impediment to the growth of our programs,” Valerie said. “I see it as an opportunity and something that is of great benefit to the student-athletes, school, and community. It is encouraging to see my girls excited to play volleyball and softball.”
Shannon has had two of her girls play softball for Coach Jim.
“What has impressed me with Jim is his gamesmanship,” she said. “He is strategic, calculated and intelligent!”
“We stress basics and make practices harder than games,” Jim said.
“He knows softball inside and out,” Shannon added. “That’s a much needed quality when you coach girls whose parents have coached them since T-ball, haha! He has supported my girls outside the field as well and is very involved in the girls' lives. He also knows how to speak quietly and still be heard.”
“Though I don't know Jim well personally, I am very appreciative of the highly competitive and tight-knit culture he has established,” Valerie said.
Valerie coaches to the philosophy, "How you do anything is how you do everything," and sees that in the softball program Jim has established at Colton.
“The family atmosphere and energy generated on the softball field don't stop there, but overflow onto the basketball court and will continue to have an impact on the girls even after they have graduated,” she said.
Valerie said that having a close relationship with the girls on her basketball team means the most to her.
“I genuinely love and care for each one of them, pray for them every day, and I want to see them succeed in whatever they do - basketball, volleyball, softball, school, work, and wherever else life takes them!” she said.
“Val exudes humility,” said Shannon. “How can a young lady full of basketball skill and coaching talent not want any glory for herself? She is an excellent role model for our young lady athletes, and I hope my youngest daughter has the opportunity to play for her!"
“My girls would probably tell you that I like to harp on the details of doing things the right way,” Valerie said. “I think doing the little things right makes them better basketball players; but it's an important life lesson, too.”
Shannon said that she owes a lot to her current volleyball assistant, Lori Stansfield, who formerly was Colton’s head volleyball coach.
“She has been a wonderful mentor and friend,” Shannon explained. “She knows absolutely everyone in the district, she has an easy way about her, and she gives grace freely.”
“The key for Colton HS girls’ sports is that we have very good students,” Jim opined. “‘The better the students the better the programs’ is 100% accurate.”
Shannon and Valerie both stressed the role of the community in making their Colton programs successful. Shannon explained the great involvement of Colton families and the development of the district’s youth programs, as follows:
“I cannot finish speaking of the program without mentioning the athlete's parents and families of Colton. Coach Val recently posted a quote on Instagram by Todd Wolfson that stated, "Great players don't make great programs, great people do!" I believe what that gentleman is saying is that there are a lot of people involved in making your program work. That is Colton to a ‘T’! These athletes and their loved ones in Colton are in essence like one huge family. The mom who makes cupcakes for her son's football team is also the conditioning coach for the volleyball team (true story!) The dad who has carried injured 10-year-olds off the softball field also likes to block and hit against the same girls on the volleyball court- also a true story!
“It's ultimately this Colton family that makes our teams successful and full of meaning.”
Shannon added that she hoped to see a return to sports normalcy at Colton in the near future.
“I miss the bantering at halftime between families, the little children doing cartwheels on the gym floor and the middle schoolers shooting pop shots!” she explained. “I miss the softball cheers, the snack shack food, and the occasional hot-tempered parent complaining of a missed call. I miss the locker room chats with my girls, the handshakes with parents after a big win, and the nods and smiles with a ‘We'll get ‘em next time!’ after a loss.
“I'm ready for our Colton family to have a reunion!”
Smiles all around!