Coaches – Westchase Cheers Check Presentation
January 9, 2019 melissa

As our Inaugural Cheers to PUBLic Service – Coaches Cycle comes to a close, we would like to take a moment to thank all 80 coaches that were nominated for these awards. Your stories are touching, encouraging, and honest representations of the heart and soul it takes to be a youth coach, and we are truly blessed to have so many legendary leaders coaching our kids throughout Hillsborough and Pasco County – Thank you for all that you do for our youth, and the community!

Although incredibly difficult, alongside our Pillar Partners, we have selected twenty stand-out coaches that will receive $1000 each as winners of our Cheers to PUBlic Service awards! CONGRATULATIONS, WINNERS!

In addition to $1,000 each, our partners at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers invited all of our coaches along with their guests to enjoy the Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Atlanta Falcons game on December 30th, 2018 and Ed Morse Cadillac of Brandon chose four winners to enjoy a Weekend Excursion in a brand new Cadillac Escalade! Huge thanks to all of our Pillar Partners who make this program possible: DeBartolo Family Foundation, The Junior League of Tampa, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Ed Morse Cadillac of Brandon, and The Outback Bowl. We couldn’t do it without you!

Please read on to learn a little more about our 2018 Westchase winners:
RICHARD RODRIGUEZ – Football Coach North Tampa Titans
Much like his father, and countless other fathers before him, Coach Richard Rodriguez started out as the coach for his kid’s football team over 26 years ago.  It didn’t take long for Coach Rodriguez to realize that so many children on his team needed more than ‘just a guy with a whistle’ – they also needed a friend, a mentor, and someone who believed in them.  Coach Rodriguez has coached softball, baseball, basketball, and currently coaches football for the North Tampa Titans (TBYFL).  During his tenure, Coach Rodriguez has touched hundreds of kids’ lives, inspiring them to believe in themselves and work hard for what they want both on and off the field.  It is this – inspiring others – that drives his passion for coaching.
Rick’s wife told us two stories that truly capture what an incredible force for good Coach Rodriguez is for these kids: “I’ll never forget the day two of my husband’s former players came to one of his games. During halftime, they approached my husband, shook his hand, hugged him & thanked him profusely for coaching them, believing in them & guiding them through their football years.  Then, they each pulled out their acceptance letters from the colleges they were accepted to on football scholarships. Rick still talks about that day as we watch them on TV, doing what they love to do.”  And as a true testament to Coach Rodriguez’s character, she also shared this touching moment on the field: “I remember a game where a young man sat on the sidelines crying because he had forgotten his cleats and wouldn’t be able to play. At that moment, my husband removed HIS shoes & gave them to the player so he could play that day. All while my husband continued to coach from the sidelines in his socks. The best part, the player was on the OPPOSING team. Rick shows no favoritism & treats ALL players with respect.”
Thank you Coach Rodriguez – For inspiring these kids, giving so tirelessly of yourself, and making a positive impact on so many lives!
GIL RODRIGUES – Basketball Coach Northwest YMCA

Coach Gil Rodrigues has dedicated the past seven years to coaching basketball – not only for his daughter’s AAU team, but also for the Northwest YMCA all-girl basketball team.  When asked what fuels his passion for coaching, Coach Rodrigues cited “not one big story but a bunch of little ones.”  He spoke of the joy he experiences watching kids grow up around the county; becoming leaders and all-star players for their respective school teams.  He explained how rewarding it was to see them do well while also enjoying the game.  For the younger kids, he loves hearing parents say they weren’t excited about playing at the beginning of the season but by the end they were so happy they did and would anxiously ask when they could be on Coach Rodrigues’ team again.

The family that nominated Gil for our Cheers to PUBlic Service award explained his coaching style as “always on the kids’ side – making sure they felt confident, capable, and challenged.”
Thank you Coach Rodrigues – For embodying what it takes to be a truly legendary coach, and being an incredible force for good in so many children’s lives!
Coach Rodrigues also won a weekend excursion in a brand new Cadillac Escalade courtesy of Ed Morse Cadillac of Brandon!
ANTHONY SANCHEZ – Baseball Coach Keystone Little League

Although Coach Anthony Sanchez has spent fourteen years coaching both baseball and softball, it was for his work with the Challenger Division of the Keystone Little League that prompted his nomination for a Cheers to PUBlic Service Award, and rightly so.  If you’re not familiar with the Challenger Division, Fox News aired a special segment (with a couple of cameos from Coach Sanchez) that sums up what an incredible program it is, and how important volunteers like Coach Sanchez are to the league’s continued success.

Watch Segment:

When asked if there was one story from coaching that stuck out as a great representation of why Coach Sanchez loves what he does, initially he had difficulty pinpointing just one because “there have been so many special moments over the years” – both while coaching his son in baseball and his daughter in softball – but he notes that the past three years coaching special needs kids (and adults) in the Challenger Division has brought him an entirely new level of joy.
Thank you, Coach Sanchez – For bringing so much joy to the members of the Keystone Challenger League, their families, and the Westchase community!
RICK SANDMAN – Coach at Bob Sierra North Tampa YMCA
The belief that every player can and does contribute to their team’s success (or failure) has been Coach Rick Sandman’s driving force for nearly three decades.  As an unathletic middle schooler, Rick wore a uniform due to the school’s no-cut policy, but rarely played, and never felt that he truly contributed to the team.  When he began coaching in 1991, Coach Sandman was determined to make a difference and find a way for each player to see that there is no “i” in team.  Thanks to Coach Sandman’s commitment to identifying each player’s strengths and making sure no kid is left behind, hundreds of young athletes participating in basketball, soccer, baseball, lacrosse, volleyball, cross-country, track & field and flag football have not felt left out warming a bench.  These kids were inspired to pursue a sport that may have been daunting at first, but far from impossible, thanks to Coach Sandman’s positive, all-inclusive, and energetic coaching style.
When asked what he planned to do with the $1,000 award, Coach Sandman told us he is going to purchase equipment for the Bob Sierra North Tampa Family YMCA where he currently coaches, and use whatever remains to pay for workshops for himself and other coaches to continue to improve techniques and get some sport-specific training.
Thank you, Coach Sandman – For committing yourself to the love of the game and inspiring so many in the process!

Congratulations, Winners!  You truly embody the I.R.I.S.H. that we feel define the best of the best, and we hope you spend this prize on whatever brings you joy!