A respected and beloved Southern Colorado basketball coach is headed to the Middle East to help troops transition out of Iraq.
Ben Garcia has been a coach at East High School since he arrived in Pueblo nearly two decades ago. But Tuesday night’s game against South High School was not just another game. It showed the skills he'll bring with him overseas.
Coach Garcia knew going into the game, his team was facing a tough opponent. When it was over, Garcia had done everything he could, and reality set in. "I'm done. I'm not going to be able to coach another basketball game with these kids," says Garcia.
Garcia is not a soldier, nor a marine, nor a sailor. He's just a man following his heart, supporting our troops. "They're the reason I do what I do, and the reason a lot of us do what we do," says Garcia. Overseas, Garcia will make sure troops have the supplies and equipment they need as they transition out of Iraq.
The skills he's developed over a decade as a basketball coach will be put into use for their benefit. "Coaching is a lot of the same thing. You kind of have to mentor and bring people along and make sure that they're doing what they need to do, and you're kind of working together with them," says Garcia
His players say he's perfect for the job. "He never gives up on you, no matter what the situation is," says Alexa Snyder, a senior on the basketball team.
Snyder, flanked by two other teammates, used the public announcer’s microphone to thank Garcia for being her coach and wished him well before Tuesday night’s game.
Even though the East Eagles lost Tuesday night, Garcia’s players still admire how he got them through the game. "He pushes us to do our best, so that we make sure that we don't walk off that court disappointed or with any regret," says Holly Carter, a junior on the team.
Carter and her sister transferred to East High just to be coached by Garcia.
While he is in the Middle East, Garcia is leaving the team in the hands of assistant coach Molly Borgstedt, and volunteer coaches Dee Betts and Jim Haynes.
Garcia expects his team to do well in the last six games of the season, and into the playoffs. He ships out to Virginia on Sunday, then onto Kuwait. He hopes to be back in Pueblo by the end of July.
Garcia may be on the other side of the earth, but he will always be just a phone call away from his team. "We're going to try to teach him how to Skype,” says Carter.
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