San Miguel offers many extra-curricular activities for students, including a robust athletic program at both campuses. San Miguel is dedicated to serving the needs of the whole child and the sports programs provides an opportunity for our students to grow physically, emotionally and socially. In the last few months, thanks to Athletic Directors, Eric Berger and Eric Serrano, our students have been succeeding on the basketball court, bringing home not one, but two league championships and participating in a tournament that brought three generations of San Miguel together!
At the Gary Comer Campus, the girls and boys basketball teams have a lot to celebrate. Both teams won the championship game to become the West Side Catholic School League Champions! For the boys, this ends their 2nd consecutive undefeated season.
The winning teams are led by Coach Eric Berger who has been the Athletic Director at the Gary Comer Campus for 8 years. "This is the greatest job in the world," says Coach Berger. "I love the gratification that comes with seeing the students be a part of a winning team." In addition to the rigorous academics at San Miguel, these students are learning other vital skills as a part of the basketball team, including confidence, pride and a sense of camaraderie with their fellow teammates. "I have seen students who were timid and scared to speak out, but when they become part of a team, they become more outgoing and are filled with self-confidence, " says Coach Berger. Coach Berger has been passionate about basketball throughout his life. A star player in college at Drake University, he traveled to Europe to play basketball before coming back to coach at San Miguel Schools. In addition to coaching the student leagues, Coach Berger also hosts weekly pick-up games for the men in the neighborhood. "It's hard to find a gym in the community," he says. "These pick-up games provide men in the community an opportunity to play, which doesn't get to happen often for them."
San Miguel Schools is a family affair for Coach Berger. His brother Todd came to San Miguel in 2001 after struggling at his old school. At San Miguel, Todd was much happier and began to improve and thrive. In 2010, Todd graduated from Austin Business and Entrepreneurial Academy. After seeing Todd's success, Coach Berger knew that his son Armand would also attend San Miguel Schools. Armand started in 2007 and is on track to graduate in May. Armand is also a member of the championship winning basketball team and remembers this as one of his favorite experiences at San Miguel.
In celebration of the girls and boys championship wins, Curley "Boo" Johnson, former member of the world famous Harlem Globetrotters returned to San Miguel to honor the championship teams and share some words and jaw-dropping ball tricks with the students.
Check out photos on Facebook of the Girls winning the Championship game!
At the Back of the Yards Campus, in addition to the soccer, volleyball, softball and basketball teams for middle school, there is a special annual intramural basketball league that brings together three generations of San Miguel: current middle school students, graduates who are currently in high school, and recent alumni who have graduated from high school.
Athletic Director, Eric Serrano, created this league in 2007 as a way to expand the athletics program at San Miguel. Because the middle school programs were already at capacity, "I saw an opportunity for our graduates to be part of an intramural basketball program in the evenings as a way for them to continue being a part of San Miguel," says Eric. "I also knew the league would be popular with the high school students so there would be a lot of participation."
The League consists of four teams led by Team Captains, all high school students. "I choose the captains based on their demonstrated leadership in middle school basketball, my experience as their coach and their participation in the first two years of the league," says Eric. The captains are in charge of drafting players that are San Miguel alumni, high school students or middle school students in an NBA style draft. After each season, players are drafted again so each year players are on different teams with different captains.
In addition to the players, the gym is always full of spectators; middle school students who come after school, high school students who catch up with friends and old classmates after they receive tutoring at San Miguel as a part of the Graduate Support Program, and even parents who come to watch their children play.
"The kids love this league and I love to run and referee this league," Eric says, reflecting on what this program means for San Miguel students and alumni. "It also makes the current middle school students see that there are sports for them when they get to high school. They don't have to be great and make their high school basketball teams in order to play San Miguel basketball." Eric continues, "It is an important league because it gets adolescents involved in something they like playing. It keeps them out of trouble for some time, it gives them a safe place to have fun, and it gives students an ongoing connection to San Miguel."