Virgen: Speakers make impact

It can be long day for high school football players going through what many refer to as, "hellweek."

At Costa Mesa High, the Mustangs begin at 8 a.m. and they go home at 6 p.m. They have lunch at the school.

Their two-a-days could become boring during breaks or as they try to settle into their second home at CMHS.

But this year, the Mustangs are gaining inspiration, motivation and education from a special speaker series that will feature former San Francisco 49ers All-Pro offensive lineman Jesse Sapolu Thursday.

Sapolu is a former CMHS assistant coach and he is a Costa Mesa resident.

Next week, Leigh Steinberg, a Daily Pilot columnist and renowned sports agent, will speak to the Mustangs and former NFL defensive back Kermit Alexander will also be on hand.

Alexander's life story has been in the media, his rise from tragedy – his mother, sister and two nephews were murdered during a home invasion – and eventual peace with his family, adopting five children from Haiti.

Alexander is sure to make an impact on the kids, some who have had their fair share of struggles and others who experience challenges that make it difficult for them to succeed.

"We are hoping to expose the players to a variety of career opportunities and resources, as well as provide opportunities for them to hear first-hand insights from college and NFL players or advocates of players," said Katrina Foley, a team booster who proposed the idea to Coach Wally Grant and he accepted. "We also want to educate them about how to stay healthy in mind and body for football and life.

"Many of our players have obstacles they overcome daily. I want to introduce them to people who have experienced struggles, and sometimes tragic life experiences, but persevered. Mostly, we want them to know that we support them and want them to succeed on and off the team."

Foley also had Trace Curet, a former Costa Mesa football player who now plays for Chapman, come and speak to the team.

Lizzie Harte, a yoga instructor, came and conducted a yoga session with the Mustangs. The plan is for her to have a 6 a.m. class for the players once a week, starting next month.

Dr. Garrett Wilchek, a chiropractor who practices in Huntington Beach, also spoke to the team. He is set up to visit the team once a week to give injury prevention tips, volunteer to help trainers and provide nutritional advice, Foley said.

The Mustangs' "hellweek" ends Wednesday, but there are plans for the players to listen to a speaker once a month starting in October, Foley said.

Foley also has plans for a mentoring program for juniors this fall that will provide education and provoke interest to help students pick a senior project internship.

Foley invited me to speak to the team on Tuesday. The Orange County Register's Brantley Watson, sports editor of the Current, as well as Time Warner's local TV sports reporter Bob Gibson also spoke to the players.

I actually encouraged the players to seek internships because I never did, yet was fortunate enough to land a good job. I also spoke of my struggles. My father passed away during my first year in community college, and I took time off. I earned my undergraduate degree at Fresno State eight years after I graduated from high school.

The Mustangs have gained plenty of motivation from the speakers. They have had a meaningful offseason. However, I have a feeling their future will be greater, on and off the field.

I do believe CMHS will have a great, successful season. The Mustangs will scrimmage with Duarte at Jim Scott Stadium Friday at 3 p.m.

Copyright © 2019, Daily Pilot
EDITION: California | U.S. & World