The Fulfilling Life of a Coach
For these coaches, training young people is as rewarding as playing is for the athletes.
Volleyball and horseback riding were Taylor Nutterfield’s favorite sports while growing up in Allen, Texas. By seventh grade, the ball and net won out.
She spent the next several years on traveling club teams, and eventually became president of Texas State University’s Women’s Club Volleyball. After college, Nutterfield discovered sand volleyball and has since competed across the country.
It’s this extensive background in both sand and indoor volleyball that now makes her a sought-after coach in Austin.
In the spring, Nutterfield works with Ali’i Volleyball, leading the 12-year-old girls team. She also coaches varsity boys and middle school girls at St. Stephen’s in the fall.
In addition to coaching, she runs a beach volleyball program — Silver Beach — that practices year round at Aussie’s on Barton Springs. There, she has coached all ages from 6-60 and reminds her players that this can be a lifelong sport.
“You can begin playing in your 30s and still compete,” Nutterfield says. “Or you can pick it up as a kid and know your body will stay healthy for many years.”
Kasen Rosenthal, 14, has been training with Nutterfield for three years and feels lucky to have found a sport she absolutely loves.
“Taylor is so fun to play for,” Rosenthal says. “We are always trying something new, and we get to play a lot of games.”
Nutterfield relishes that moment when everything just clicks for her players and they start to work independently.
“The moment the bird flies out of the nest is always memorable to me,” Nutterfield says.
One of the most rewarding parts of teaching volleyball for Nutterfield is imparting the wisdom to her players to be comfortable in their own skin. She knows that self respect and confidence took her a long time to learn and if her volleyball players gain those characteristics then her job is done.
Cross Country Coach
It’s 6 a.m. on a Friday morning and 11-year-old Evan Vier is on his his way to cross country practice at St. Theresa’s Catholic School in Northwest Hills. It’s his first season, and he’s hoping to continually improve his speed.
“Coach Fletcher shows me how to run so I don’t lose energy,” Vier says. “He told me how to keep my arms closer to my side.”
Vier is referring to Matt Fletcher, a 46-year-old engineer who has spent the last five years waking up before dawn to meet his cross country team at the school parking lot, Town Lake or a nearby middle school track to complete their early morning workouts and to prepare for their weekend meets. For Fletcher, it’s about a true love for the sport and a desire to ignite that same spark in a new generation.
You can’t listen to Fletcher share his passion for running and not want to start doing some sprints — or at least buy a new pair of running shoes.
Fletcher admits he was not very active as a kid, preferring band and math club, but seven years ago, at age 39, after accepting a fitness challenge from his wife’s trainer, he got hooked on running. Since then, he has competed in the Boston Marathon twice, finished a 100k mountain race in Utah and completed a marathon in Sacramento in under three hours. In February, he’ll be one of the pace leaders in the Austin Marathon.
During all of these miles, Fletcher has time to reflect on his coaching.
“You want practices to be nurturing and fun but you also want to put them through training stress,” Fletcher says, explaining this is a good balance in which to see improvements.
“I don’t push them too hard because I have seen kids being yelled at by their parents and I cringe.”
These kids probably won’t be running in high school and college, Fletcher observes, and long term is what it’s all about. He wants the kids to love running and then teach their kids to love running, continuing the tradition.
It looks like Fletcher has met his goal with Vier, who has already decided he will definitely do cross country again next year with
DeJuan ‘Chico’ Vazquez
When you’re 6 feet 2 inches tall in eighth grade, you get used to having everyone looking at you. But what Chico Vazquez prefers is to have everyone listening to him. As a coach for aspiring basketball superstars, players take his advice seriously.
As they should. Vazquez is one of Austin’s great talents. Having played four years at The University of Texas from 1995-1999, Longhorn fans still recognize him around the city. After college, he played overseas in Japan, the Philippines, Puerto Rico and Australia.
Growing up in Austin, Vazquez remembers playing pick-up basketball games at Givens Park on East 12th street. His uncle owned Sonny’s Salon and his grandmother had an insurance company in the area so he’d stop by to say hello to both of them before heading to play some hoops, going from Givens Park to nearby Doris Miller Gym in Rosewood Park.
There he met his most influential coach, LD Washington, a local man who spent his life encouraging kids to play team sports. Vazquez remembers he was never paid; he just did it to help others.
“He’d walk around with his magnetic clipboard,” remembers Vazquez. “It only had four magnets, but he’d show us a play and we’d just go out and do it. He was highly respected and when he talked we listened. He helped a whole generation of us East Austin athletes.”
Like his mentor, Vazquez hopes he is also helping young athletes to reach their highest potential. After coaching at St. Gabriel’s, he now does an assortment of year-round coaching for both girls and boys teams, including AAU boys basketball.
History may be about to repeat itself. Vasquez says there are a couple of Central Texas high school players who are nationally ranked and have limitless potential. He can spot a future leader because he’s an athlete who knows what it feels like to be at the top of his game, and he wants nothing more than to have as many kids as possible reach their highest potential.