Alumni and Teacher Perspectives

A high school athlete can only play for their school for a maximum only four years. That doesn’t mean, however, that the memories and habits they take up on their respective fields fade as they age. It’s been a while, but for these three MVHS staff members the lessons from their high school sports still live on.

Part 1: Jenna Smith

By Bill Cheng

Physiology and leadership teacher Jenna Smith feels that soccer has been one of the greatest influences in her life. She spent a lot of time practicing the sport, and it helped her feel like she belonged more with her school.

“Soccer was my identity. When I was in high school . . . I would get home at around 8:30 or 9 p.m. to do my homework. And that was my life,” Smith said. “I loved it. My team was my family, they were my siblings, and during the high school season, it was my time to be a part of the school.”

Smith feels that one of the main lessons that she learned from her soccer years involved communicating with others in a wide variety of situations. Whether she was winning, losing or absolutely exhausted, Smith quickly learned how to work together with her team to achieve common goals and keep friendships strong.

“I do think that the lessons that I learned on the soccer field transcended the field into the classroom, into my relationships with friends and even my family,” Smith said. “It's just something that I really and truly feel that being a part of various soccer teams, but especially the high school [one], gave me momentum to connect with other individuals.”

Smith feels that her years as a soccer player definitely brought a positive charge into her career as a teacher. When she tore the ligaments in her knee and went through the recovery process, she was inspired to become a physical therapist. But, the opportunities to her during her time as a substitute teacher changed her perspective.

“I was going to be a physical therapist, and then I was given the opportunity to long-term sub at Lynbrook and I fell in love with it,” Smith said. “I can teach physiology, which is how the body works, and I can coach soccer, and help kids figure out how to deal with things that go wrong and how to develop things to go better, and I never looked back. Just totally switched my career paths.”

Part 2: Jeff Mueller

Business teacher Jeff Mueller has played sports his whole life. Even though he started with basketball in his freshman year at MVHS, his shorter stature made playing the game difficult. He decided to focus on one of his old favorites, baseball, instead.

For Mueller, MVHS baseball was a learning experience for game concepts and team dynamics.

“We weren't very successful, but we were just a bunch of individuals who were playing and we didn't really have any type of team concept,” Mueller said. “But I learned the game of baseball, and that really helped me later on.”

Sports like baseball and football helped to keep Mueller “out of trouble” during his youth and motivated him to continue pursuing higher education. He learned life skills from his football experiences as well.

“I think the biggest thing is it taught me dedication; I had to be dedicated to what I was doing.” Mueller said. “It enabled me to go ahead and learn those concepts and apply those concepts as a player and as a [football] coach.”

Part 3: Nico Flores

Assistant Principal Nico Flores lived in Arizona when he was young, while his father lived in California. During the summer, Flores would return to California and play baseball with his friends: it was one of the main ways that their friendships remained strong despite the distance between them. Flores thinks that baseball helped keep him focused and get him through school. It was the thought of obligation and the corresponding weight of responsibility that kept him on track.

Flores considers the school administration to be his team for which he holds a responsibility that he must uphold.

“I feel like I’m part of the administration team,” Flores said, “I consider myself to be a good teammate, I challenge people who need to be challenged and I support kids who need support.”

The thought that he was always part of a team motivated him to do things that were best for the school. Flores believes that baseball has helped him become the person that he is and has become the main reason why he believes sports are important for students.