Salt River High School (SRHS) Athletic Director Shawn Lytle said the increase in participation in this year’s school athletic programs reflects the growth in athletics within the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community. He said one of the goals is to try to get more students and athletes to SRHS.
“The kids have definitely gotten better over the years,” Lytle said of the students’ athletic performance. “The kids on a small-school level work just as hard as those attending schools outside of 1A competition; [the larger schools] just have more kids. But playing in the games is just as meaningful, with the kids giving their all and believing in what they are doing.”
A lot of parents attend the games and watch their students play, but Lytle said SRHS is hoping to get even more parental support to form a booster club. He said this year the individual classes are each putting together separate activities and he is hoping the booster club will build from there. Currently parents provide pre-game meals after school on game days for the football team.
Lytle said although SRHS has a pep band, it would like to someday have enough interest to form a marching band as well.
More Than Just a Coach
According to Lytle, coaching today is no longer a simple job of practices and game days; instead, coaches have taken on additional roles to contribute to student-athletes out on the fields, in the classrooms and at home.
“Not only do we have to coach, but we also act as counselors, role models and sometimes parents,” Lytle said. “Each kid is different, and you never know what they have at home. And even if they have support systems, they still need us.”
Lytle added that coaching is making sure the student athletes have food at home and rides home, as well as making sure they make it to school and keep up on their academics.
“Unfortunately, few of our Community members play in surrounding schools because if they do not attend every camp or lifting session or donate a certain amount of money to the program, they are simply let go,” Lytle said.
Well-Rounded Athletes a Priority
Rather than trying to create “stars,” Lytle said, SRHS promotes a well-rounded athlete and student who plays multiple sports and does well academically.
“We are still young, only in our seventh year as a high school, but we are improving and hope to start building our own traditions and something the Community can be proud of,” he said. “We encourage kids to come out and try a sport even if they’ve never played before. There is a place for everyone.”