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  • Writer's pictureMary McQueen

Head Coach Kyle Rhatigan is enjoying a “return to normal” this volleyball season - saying goodbye to athletes playing in masks and hello to stands full of parents, students, and community. As the Head Coach of BHS volleyball since 2014, and assistant coaching since 2011, Coach Kyle has seen a lot of program highlights including spirited competition with Fairview HS and feel-good family banquets.

Prior to the COVID pandemic, BHS Volleyball was on the cusp of a really exciting era. All levels of teams were highly competitive, the program was full of fun activities and was well-supported by the community. Away game meals for the athletes were sponsored by local businesses, and the girls enjoyed big sister/little sister connections within the program and making highlight reels at the end of the season. These were all signs of a thriving and successful program… and then the pandemic hit. We all know the story since then- school was disrupted, seasons canceled, athletes dispersed by personal and academic upheaval. Everything that the program had worked so hard to become came to a halt. Now, it is time to refocus on all those things that make BHS Volleyball special.

The return to normal has been steady over the last season in particular, and Coach Kyle wants to stress to the parents and community how much their support means to the athletes, especially now. Support looks like fellow students filling the stands and cheering loudly - which in turn creates such energy and momentum for the teams. It also means parents supporting their athletes and teams through program involvement. Coach Kyle particularly wants parents to know that the athletes really and truly appreciate your support, even if they don’t always know how to show it.

This year, Coach Kyle and the assistant coaches are happy to be focusing on some core values of the program; developing confidence, competitive drive, and continual growth. He wants to see the athletes using every opportunity they can to be better - on and off the court. This shows up in being a better friend, a better student, a better person. Coach Kyle is looking forward to more program-wide activities and drills, opportunities to interact and give back to the community. He is especially excited about all the energy that Athletic Director Bishop is bringing to BHS Athletics along with opportunities for school-wide community building across all the sports programs. As for this year’s teams, Coach Kyle is excited to see that, despite being young across the board, there are leadership opportunities across all grades that the girls are already stepping up to.

Coach Kyle knows what it is like to be a student-athlete. Growing up in California, where boys’ volleyball was common and there were many opportunities to play in school, clubs, and beach volleyball tournaments, it was a central theme in his youth. After high school he decided to come to CU for college, where men’s volleyball is a club sport. Rising to president of the club during his tenure at CU, he led the team to a 5th and then a 3rd place national ranking, earning his own title of “First Team All-American” on the way. He became a practice player with the CU women’s Division-1 team, where he credits the high level coaching he received with learning so much about women’s volleyball. For the last 15 years, Coach Kyle has played competitively on the local level while maintaining the relationships and tight-knit community that volleyball has provided throughout the years.

Outside of coaching the BHS Volleyball program, Coach Kyle’s professional life is dedicated to promoting all youth sports in Boulder County - from volleyball to pickle ball and everything in between. He truly believes in the value of sports to create better humans and to add quality of life from youth through adulthood. He’s never quite given up his volleyball glory, and frequently spends his weekends competing. Best of luck, Coach Kyle, and to all of the BHS Volleyball players for the remainder of the season!

  • Writer's pictureMary McQueen

Baseball memories have led Coach (John) Whitehead down the path to Head Coach for the BHS Baseball program. Starting with T-ball at age 4, and watching his Dad coach baseball throughout his youth growing up in Jackson, Tennessee, baseball has been a central theme in his life. Coach Whitehead was a multi-sport athlete all through high school, playing basketball, football, and Track & Field in addition to baseball. He remains a big proponent of athletes staying healthy and well-rounded by playing multiple sports throughout the year. Coach Whitehead ultimately ended up playing baseball at Jackson State Community College- a program that reached top-ten in the nation during his tenure- and then transferring to Covenant College, a D3 school in North Georgia that sent several of his teammates to the MLB.

As fate would have it, Coach Whitehead suffered a career-ending injury during his senior year at Covenant College. Rather than dwell on that misfortune, he let it lead him down another path inside the baseball world, working for the Jackson Generals AA baseball program where he handled marketing, sales, and player promotion for two years. It was at this point that Coach Whitehead knew he wanted to be a coach, so he started off on his so-far 13 year coaching career.

After 6 years in head coaching positions in Tennessee high schools, Coach Whitehead and his wife, Becky, moved to Colorado, spending the next 6 years coaching in Arvada and Golden- the most recent 4 yrs at Arvada West as Pitching Coordinator and Assistant Head Coach. Ready for a change and feeling a connection to Boulder, which reminds him so much of his hometown of Jackson in size and community feeling, Coach Whitehead accepted the PE teaching position and subsequently the Head Baseball Coaching position at BHS. Inspired by BHS Baseball’s rich history- back to 2 state titles in the 1990’s- Coach Whitehead sees a real opportunity to build on the “winning culture” established here.

In his first year, the ‘21-’22 school year, Coach Whitehead was impressed and pleased by how welcome and accepted he felt by the senior athletes- something that is not a given when players have been playing for other head coaches throughout high school. The players trusted his process right away, starting with off-season strength training as a program of injury prevention- which he can now say was successful, after a season with no major injuries.

Coach Whitehead ushered in an increase in overall team numbers- from 35 last season to 41 this season, a promising sign for the BHS baseball program. This season was an overall success- BHS was not favored within the division or even within BVSD, but ended up beating all the other BVSD teams including Broomfield High- the team who ended up winning the state title for the division. BHS even came one win away from making it to the state tournament. In the end, BHS placed 6th out of 12 in the division, far exceeding expectations, and Coach Whitehead points out that “technically, we were the county and BVSD champs” with a proud grin.

One of the ‘21-’22 season highlights was beating Fairview “handily”- especially for the seniors who had not fared well against Fairview the last several years. Coach Whitehead gave shout-outs to Derek Woolwine (BHS ‘22) for his performance which was key in the Broomfield win, and to Adrian Armstrong (BHS ‘22) for his leadership on and off the field throughout the season. Coach Whitehead is optimistic and excited for next season, citing an impressive performance by Danny Balderez (BHS ‘23) who played a complete game against Monarch this past season, and the overall achievement of David Kimberly (BHS ‘23) who really helped solidify the pitching rotation as a starting pitcher.

As for how Coach Whitehead keeps his passion for coaching and for the game of baseball, he says he can’t do it without his family. Becky, his wife of 10 yrs, is “so supportive, managing the home team” especially during the craziness of the season. “Assistant Coach” Garrett (Possibly BHS ‘37), particularly enjoys helping Coach Whitehead with his duties- and the athletes love it when he comes around.

Coach Whitehead also points to those baseball memories and bonds established so long ago as integral to his love for coaching. A testament to his lifelong connection to baseball, he remains in contact with many of the players his Dad coached decades ago.

May 2022

Ailey Ruger, Spanish Teacher and BHS Girls’ Swim & Dive Coach in her inaugural year as head coach, had to make a quick decision to not ride the bus with the team on a chilly February Saturday morning to compete in “Leagues”- the all-important qualifier meet, just a week before States. Coach Ruger had been anxiously awaiting her rushed order of 15 new “LZR Racers”- top of the line racing suits that would give the girls the mental and performance edge they would need to perform their best in Leagues and even qualify for States. The suits could not be ordered until she knew how many girls would need to swim in them that day. Friday night she learned they were not going to arrive in time for the next day’s meet

Saturday morning, as she thanked the assistant coaches for taking her place on the team bus, she called every outfitter on the front range- all of whom were out of stock given the timing in the season. Losing hope, she finally dialed a shop in Loveland and learned that they had just received a fresh shipment. Yes! Instead of hopping on that bus heading south, she hopped in her car and sped north to Loveland, where the kind-hearted merchant even gave her a discount after hearing her predicament.

Coach Ruger pulled into the Veteran’s Memorial Aquatic Center in Thornton shortly before the first starting gun of the League meet. The girls’ faces lit up when they saw Coach Ruger and the brand new high performance suits she was bringing them to wear. They went on to swim their fastest- many girls made it to the finals (top 24), and several finishing within .2 seconds of the State cuts. While this created disappointing near-misses for some, Coach Ruger recalls hearing “I’ll make it next year” in quiet displays of resilience and grit. In all, 15 BHS girls swam at States, with 3 individual qualifiers for 5 individual races and 3 relays. It was a memorable ending to a thrilling first season for Coach Ruger and her 62 swimmers and 2 divers.

The highly coveted LZR Racers, 15 in all with 5 being “top of the line”, were purchased with the help of a Panther Club grant, combined with swimming program funds and a generous grant from the community. Coach Ruger takes exquisite care of these special suits- handing them out just before an important race and collecting them immediately after for proper cleaning and storage until they are next needed. With this diligence, these high performance pieces will see several more qualifiers and State meets, supporting their wearers to achieve PRs in big races for the next several years.

Coach Ruger started her own swimming career at a young age- ultimately swimming for BHS and for the Club team at Rally Sport, earning an athletic scholarship to swim for Colorado State University all 4 years of her college career. After a 3 year hiatus in South America to live abroad and perfect her Spanish, Coach Ruger joined her alma mater in the BHS Spanish Department in 2018, where she is loved and appreciated as a Spanish 2 and 4 teacher. After a long day of teaching, no matter how weary she feels when swim practice starts, she notes “I am almost always in a better head space when I leave”- a testament to her love of coaching. One of the most rewarding aspects of coaching is seeing the mental switch she sees take place in swimmers- for example a swimmer who never looked forward to meets, begging to swim in a relay by the end of the season.

In a moment of reflection, Coach Ruger asks “Does girls’ swimming make incredible humans, or are incredible humans just drawn to girls’ swimming?”. Congratulations, Coach Ruger and the entire Panther Swimming/Diving program, on a successful season, full of personal stories of growth and achievement.

Go Panthers!

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