Academics, Athletics Are Important At Culver
(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is Part 2 of an interview with Tom Salter, Culver City High Athletic Director)
Jerry Chabola hired me to coach golf and I’ve been doing it for 14 years with Bruce Unoura. Bruce is a retired Culver City police officer. He has been with the golf program for 25 years and we have a great working relationship.
Bruce is a very good technician and basically he lets me help him out. We graduated a lot of players from two years ago so last year we had a real young team.
We have boys and girls on the one team. It’s a co-ed team and led by our senior girl, Megan McKeon, who’s going to have an outstanding senior year.
We have good kids, good student /athletes who are learning the game when they come here and it is something they can play the rest of their lives. But Bruce Unoura deserves the credit for everything going on with the golf program.
We have to understand as coaches and people that this is the students’ time. We had our time playing sports in high school and now this is their years and we have to make it a great experience for the student / athletes. I think, “It’s not my team or coach’s team… it’s Culver City.” It’s about the players on the team.
It’s really all about the student /athletes and what great experiences we can have for them. It’s their teams. I’m a big believer in ownership and that the players buy into what we are all doing, not just the coaches but also the players.They have to realize this is their time in high school and we have to make every year special.
Their senior year only happens once in their lifetime so we tilt it a little more towards the senior class and make it special for them.
Whatever success they have on the field they have to understand that if they don’t do well in the classroom they’re not going to do anything with it. We have to keep working them hard, keep pushing them and make them realize that academics come first.
We have to keep them grounded but always reaching for the stars in terms of what they want to do and where they want to go.
It’s a great living for us because we get to work with kids all the time and really see their dreams and goals and help push them along to go into college or go into professions that they want to go to and encourage them.
I think coaching is the greatest profession out there. And being able to work with the youth and especially the kids at Culver City, it keeps us young.
I think being humble is very important. We don’t want kids being big-headed and stuff like that. I think we got to keep them disciplined, keep on them but we do want to instill confidence.
There’s a fine line there. We don’t want to take a kid’s confidence away. As long as we mix confidence with them being self-motivated we can do a good job with that.
Working with the other coaches, the staff, seeing all the players grow from their freshman year to their senior year is very rewarding. I see a lot of growth from their junior to their senior year. I see the growth of the young men and how they mature over time. It’s funny, we’ll see their light go on.
Basically, we’ll see a kid maybe struggling academically or struggling on the field and all of a sudden they get it. They improve greatly. We’re hammering and hammering and then all of a sudden the light goes on.
What we’re trying to do is to get them to be self-motivated. We’re pushing them and pushing them. Finally they become self-motivated and then they take off. That’s the joy of teaching and coaching is seeing when that light comes on and they understand it’s their future they’re thinking about.
The school and working on the field, that comes together. And I think that’s what it’s all about.
For the coming year I want all the teams to compete. If they compete and do their best they’re going to win. Whether it’s on the scoreboard or life, as long as they go out and compete every day they prepare themselves and they go out and do their very best, and I mean their very best, then the score will take care of itself.
So if they do that and work hard in the classroom, I think that’s all you can ask for. I hope everyone keeps safe. I don’t want any injuries. That’s always one of the goals is to keep everyone safe. If we get the kids to be self-motivated, compete hard every day, they’re going to be winners no matter what.
Everything is intertwined. We’ve got great spirit. When teams are playing well it seems the school has great pride and that give the school a lot of spirit. All of a sudden there will be more people at the games. We’ll have rallies.
So it’s very contagious that good sports programs will help the spirit of the school. It’s just like all the other programs: the AVPA, the dance, the band, the different clubs.
All those are important for the school. But for the athletic program, a team that is playing well gets school pride, gets school spirit, gets people out there on a Friday night for a football game or a basketball game, a baseball playoff game.
Last year, the girls water polo team went 25-2 and at their games all of a sudden it was packed for a 3:15 game in the afternoon. It adds a lot of excitement. It helps the school a lot.
The teachers are great. The teachers just want the best for the students. They want them to do their best and get to their potential. And if the students are not doing that, the teachers have a good relationship with the coaches and myself to let us know that a student could do better.
We use any kind of motivation to get that light turned on for that student to get excited about school.
So the teachers are very important because really it’s academics that are Number One. Once the student /athletes understand that it’s a lot easier for them in the long run. They understand that academics will take them where they need to go.
Sports are more fun. It will open some doors but if you don’t have your academics, you’re in trouble.
The teachers are very supportive. They come to the games. They take great pride in the school and functions of the school. I’ll see them at football games, baseball games, basketball games, tennis matches and all the games.
It’s a great working relationship but it’s also social. They get to go out with the other teachers and watch a game. Friday night to me is special, getting a lot of people out there and enjoying the weekend and watching the kids play. It’s a lot of fun.