Alma Valdez coaches Alexander’s summer league team

Alma Valdez never expected to be involved with basketball. When she was a student at Martin High School, she never once attended a basketball game. In fact, sports weren’t her forte. Band was. But now decades later, you can find her on the sidelines during the summer.

High school basketball coaches can’t coach their programs in summer league competition. It’s a rule implemented by the University Interscholastic League, which is the governing body of Texas high school athletics. So, when a team participates in summer league action, they are either likely player-led, coached by a recently graduated player or led by a friend of the head coach. But for the Alexander Bulldogs, they are coached by Alma, who is the wife of head coach Luis Valdez.

“She is really involved in the program,” Luis said of his wife. “She helps with stats after the game – stuff like that. So, a few years back, she asked who was coaching the boys during summer league. I told her that they just coached themselves. So, she wondered if it would be better having someone be there for them to show some structure. I said, ‘yes,’ and then she said she wanted to provide that structure.”

Alma started coaching Alexander in summer league matchups a little over a decade ago. She had to take some years off though due to some family matters and COVID-19. But she has returned to the sidelines with force and gratitude.

Alma provides more than the typical summer-league structure, which is usually managing rotations. She calls plays and switches up lineups to get the most out of the Bulldogs. Alexander is a well-oiled machine during summer league games thanks to her.

Now, some of the plays Alma calls are provided by Luis. He tells her a day or two in advance about what he would like to see Alexander run in certain matchups. However, thanks to the knowledge she has gained watching him coach over the past 30-plus years, she makes tweaks on her own sometimes. She’ll play kids in certain positions because she believes they’ll succeed there. And when the regular season rolls, Luis might keep them there because of what he saw in the summer.

“Sometimes he takes my advice,” Alma said. “But he will tell me straight up that he’s listening, but he won’t follow everything I say. He respects my opinion, but at the end of the day he has to do his own thing.”

Luis added, “She makes changes as she sees fit. She has learned a lot. She has been following me for 35 years. Her basketball knowledge is good.”

Although Alma strives to provide structure for the Bulldogs’ summer-league teams, she also aims to be the players’ biggest motivator and supporter.

Last week in a matchup against LBJ, Alexander was down. So, she called a timeout to tell the team it wasn’t playing to its potential. That she believed in the players and if they played to their skill level, they could come back and win. And that’s what the Bulldogs did. They came back and beat a scrappy Wolves team.

“I’m just a calming presence,” Alma said. “I am also the reminder, like against LBJ, I called a timeout to remind the team to refocus and not to panic. (The kids) need to know how good they are. Like I told my husband, this is a time to gel. (The kids) need to feed off each other’s strengths and weaknesses. If I know what your strength is, I can help you build on that. If I know what your weakness is, I can help you improve on that.”

While Alma enjoys coaching Alexander during the summer, so do the players. Luis believes his team enjoys the difference in coaching styles between his and his wife’s.

“You can ask all the kids and the parents, they would prefer her over me sometimes,” Luis said with a chuckle. “The parents tell me all the time to be careful because she is going to take my job.”

Now, Alma is heavily involved with the program year-round. During the regular season, she helps her husband get a jump start on scouting. She’ll help put opponents’ stats together and break down film. But she enjoys the offseason the most as she gets to work with the team hands on a lot more.

Luis enjoys seeing his wife coach his program during the summer. He’s proud of the undefeated seasons she has had in years’ past. But most importantly, he’s appreciative of her support for him and the program.

“It’s been good for us to have her coach,” Luis said. “It’s been good to us because she really loves the kids – like a mother. The kids love her.”

Alma never expected to be involved with basketball. She never enjoyed the sport until she married Luis over three decades ago. But now, she looks forward to the summer to coach Alexander. And she is grateful to help the program in any way she can.

“I enjoy this,” Alma said. “It’s nerve-racking sometimes, but I just remind myself why I am here, which is to help out in any way I can.”

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