By Tammy Gray
Technically, Holbrook High School head basketball coach Raul Mendoza is retiring, but in reality, he is just taking on different challenges than in the past.
“I’m not really going to retire. I’m just going in a different direction,” Mendoza said. “There’s a lot more to do.”
While Mendoza doesn’t plan on working for a living, he does hope to continue to mentor youth through his church and as part of an outreach to former students.
“I’m active in my church and I’d like to do what I’m doing now, some counseling, and visit some of my former students,” he said. “I want to be able to do the things I want to do on my time, and go where I want to go. I’m kind of looking forward to it.”
Despite his readiness to go in a new direction, Mendoza explained that he loves his job, both as a coach and a counselor, and can’t imagine having spent his time doing anything else.
“I got to do something I liked for my whole career,” he remarked. “I’ve enjoyed every minute of it, except that I don’t have the energy I used to have, and I guess that’s another reason why I decided it’s time to retire and do something else.”
Mendoza started his career in 1977 at Window Rock, where he coached several sports, but found his real passion as head basketball coach. After 11 years at Window Rock, he came to Holbrook from 1989 to 1993, then went on to Coconino for two years, Alchesay for six years and finally returned to Holbrook in 2001 to finish out his time as a coach. That time included a state championship in 2011, Holbrook’s first since 1971.
The decision to become a coach was easy for Mendoza. He simply picked what he liked to do.
“I’ve always liked sports. In high school I played and enjoyed it, so when I went to college I got involved in coaching,” he said.
He imparts the philosophy he used to choose his career to the students he counsels.
“When I’m counseling my kids, I tell them they need to do something they like, something they enjoy, something they’re good at,” he commented.
Mendoza pointed out that because he has been able to spend his time doing something that he likes, there isn’t one single highlight, but an extended pleasure at coaching and encouraging students.
“I can’t say that there’re highlights; just being able to do what I did is in itself enjoyable. I look forward every day to coming to work and being here,” he said. “I’m just grateful that I was able to do what I did, that I had the opportunity to come here and do what I did. Hopefully, I made a difference in someone’s life.”
Besides continuing to mentor youth through his church, Mendoza plans to spend time with his three grandchildren, work in the yard and exercise, things he has not been able to spend as much time on as he would like. He does not plan to do a lot of traveling, however, noting that he has spent every summer traveling with basketball teams and this will be the first summer in 35 years that he will spend entirely at home.
“I’ll stay busy,” he said. “I’m not going to just get a La-Z-Boy and lay down.”
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By Tammy Gray