Building a state championship team requires feeding, transporting and encouraging dozens of kids for a decade.
The dedication of the players themselves has been mirrored, and sometimes anticipated, by their parents, coaches and members of the community. The combination of these efforts has been “a tremendous unifier within our community,” said Wanda Lucero, whose family is deeply rooted in Taos athletics.
Anaya Field is named for her grandfather, Loren Anaya Sr., who was the facilities director when Lucero was growing up in Taos. The dedication Anaya showed rising early to set the sprinklers on the old grass field, returning home for breakfast then back to the field many times throughout the day, set a precedent for Lucero.
That precedent includes the “generations of Abreus who have given their lives to student athletes,” Lucero said, and food – lots of food. After Leland Abreu, grandfather of Tiger head football coach Art Abreu Jr., led his Peñasco basketball boys to a state victory in Albuquerque, Lucero’s grandfather insisted that the team go to the Albuquerque home of his daughter, Rebecca Lucero, for a meal.
Rebecca Lucero and her then-teenaged daughter Wanda Lucero welcomed and fed the boys that filed off the bus. It made quite an impression on the younger Lucero.
After the 2018 Tigers claimed a state title of their own, she told Coach Abreu Jr., “My grandfather did this for your grandfather.” And now it’s her turn to host a formal banquet for the team, scheduled for January 2019.
The whole Taos community has been involved in nourishing the bodies of the Tiger team. From the advertisers who support broadcasts of the games and contribute money for meals while the team is traveling to the family members who put themselves in the kitchen preparing massive carbohydrate-heavy pregame spaghetti dinners, it takes a small army of love and devotion to keep a football team fed.
Not only did this work ensure that all the players got the same food, it also meant they got to eat together. One might think that in a decade of playing football, the first thing to come to players’ minds when asked for a favorite memory would be something from the field. More than half of the players asked responded right away: eating together the night before a game.
Whether it was spaghetti at home or a meal in a restaurant before an away game, those hours spent “just hanging out” and “being together” solidified the bonds between the players. The giant trays of pasta and camaraderie when they weren’t allowed to be on their phones solidified the coaches’ lessons in “how to be young men.”
The felt reality on the team is “we have each other’s backs, no matter what.” Such certainty reflects the thousands of hours of grueling work the players themselves have given, the trust they have developed in one another and their coaches, and the love and devotion of family and community members that made it all possible.