Magdaleno Facing Decision on Job He Has Put His Heart Into

Joe Magdaleno has coached the Santa Paula High boys' soccer team since its inception in 1980. His mind wants him to continue. His heart may not allow it.

After first suffering chest pains in December, Magdaleno was told by doctors in early January he had cardiac arrhythmia--an irregular heartbeat.

Drugs have been used to treat Magdaleno's condition with some success, but the malady's symptoms caused the 53-year-old coach to miss six games this season and threaten to end his career as an engineer of fast-paced, highly skilled teams.

"The administration wants me to continue and I want to continue," Magdaleno said. "But if coaching will interfere with my health I will retire. I'll make that decision by summer."

Magdaleno, who last year was inducted into the Ventura County Sports Hall of Fame, has a record of 258-64-19 at Santa Paula and his teams have won a pair of Southern Section titles.

More importantly, he has been a stable presence in the lives of hundreds of Santa Paula teenagers, both through coaching and as an outreach consultant to at-risk junior high students, a job he has been on leave from since Jan. 3.

"He instills discipline and values; he wants to keep guys off the streets and in sports," said Westlake boys' soccer Coach Lalo Alvarado, a former Santa Paula player and assistant. "He's done a lot of positive things and kids look forward to coming into the program."

And once the players are finished on the field, Magdaleno looks forward to keeping tabs on their lives.

"Most of them stay around town and I'm very proud when they introduce me to their families and tell me they're doing well," he said. "I've had guys go on to be doctors, attorneys, coaches, but I'm proud of them whatever they do."

Magdaleno particularly enjoyed this season's team, which included a large group of seniors in their third varsity season. The Cardinals won the program's eighth Frontier League title before their season ended Feb. 28 with a loss in the section Division IV semifinals.

"If I was ever going to get sick it should have been with this team," Magdaleno said. "They were an extension of me on the field and I had complete confidence in them."

Under doctors' orders to remain low-key once he returned to the bench in February, Magdaleno downshifted his already mellow personality, remaining seated and rarely raising his voice.

But, emotionally, he was in turmoil.

"It's been very, very hard," Magdaleno said of contemplating the future of his life and coaching career. "After all the relationships I've built with my teams I wanted to stay on and coach the sons of my former players.

"Any change in life is hard and traumatic and if it's because of your health it's even harder."

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No practice? No problem for Cara Blumfield.

A freshman at Calabasas, Blumfield won the 13- to 14-year-old age group in a Los Angeles region basketball skills competition last Sunday at the Pyramid in Long Beach.

Blumfield advances to the national finals, to be held April 13 in Philadelphia during a girls' high school All-American basketball game. She will compete against age-group winners from seven other U.S. cities.

The competition features three categories: free-throw shooting, field-goal shooting and speed dribbling. Blumfield didn't practice for the regional competition and has no plans to do so for the national event.

"I didn't even know what it was, I just went because my mom told me to," said Blumfield, who qualified for her Pyramid appearance during a preliminary competition in Alhambra on Feb. 3.

Despite her low-key approach, Blumfield is looking forward to going to Philadelphia, where competition sponsors will fly her and one of her parents.

"I heard you get to ride around in limos and stuff," Blumfield said. "The competition's just something to do while I'm there."

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Tracey Milburn will have earned eight varsity letters by the time she concludes her junior year at Moorpark in a few months. But she has not suited up for the Musketeers in her favorite sport: soccer.

Milburn has been a first-team All-Frontier League selection in volleyball, basketball and softball and recently was named the league's most valuable player in basketball. Yet she deems playing striker for the Conejo Valley Rockettes under-19 club team her favorite athletic endeavor.

"I've played soccer since I was in first grade; I started the others later," said Milburn, who is leaving her college sports options open. "It's just the sport I have the most fun playing."

Playing high school soccer would prevent Milburn from playing for the girls' basketball team, which her father, Brent, coaches. But playing club soccer, which breaks only in the winter, means she participates in two sports at once in the fall and spring.

Saturday, Milburn had an 8 a.m. soccer game she left early for a softball double-header that she planned to leave early for another soccer game.

"I don't want to tell her, 'It's soccer only,' because that turns some athletes off," Rockettes Coach Mark Tietjen said. "She's definitely got the tools to play [soccer] at the next level, but realistically she could play several different sports in college."

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