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Preparing for real life
Loera shares life lessons with youth through school, sports
Chuy Loera coaching
Jesus “Chuy” Loera directs his team as the Great Bend High School boys soccer coach during the Fall 2021 season. Loera has coached the team since 2016, as well as the Great Bend Middle School boys soccer team since 2015. Loera also works at the high school as a family engagement coordinator. - photo by Hugo Gonzalez

From a young age, Jesus “Chuy” Loera knew he enjoyed two things – playing soccer and working with kids. But he didn’t always know what direction those passions would take him. Now, Loera’s career has him doing both, as a family engagement coordinator at Great Bend High School, and as a boys soccer coach for both GBHS and Great Bend Middle School.

Loera, himself a 2006 GBHS graduate, described his entrance into coaching as “a natural thing.” He began by coaching recreational soccer at the age of 14, which progressed into coaching first instructional, then traveling club soccer in his late teens. Though he loved playing soccer, he knew his own playing career would eventually end, so coaching became a way to still contribute to the game by being around the kids and help them learn the game he is passionate about, as well. As a coach, though, he said his goal is to teach them about more than just soccer.

“My favorite part is just being with them and building relationships with them,” Loera said. “It’s fun to win games, and it’s fun to see their progress as a player, but it’s more exciting to me to think that maybe we can help them find a path or purpose (beyond soccer).”

Part of this work is recognizing the natural gifts and talents his players have, and helping them see how those can benefit them beyond the playing field, “once education ends and real life begins.”

“Maybe you are good at communication, you are a good leader,” he said. “And maybe you can go into a position where you are your own boss; you could start your own business just because of the way that you’re able to communicate, lead and motivate those around you.”

As his coaching career progressed, Loera first accepted a job as the boys soccer coach at GBMS in 2015, then at the high school in 2016. The deeper he got into coaching, the more he realized how much he enjoyed working with the youth.

“I like getting to know their stories,” he said. “I getting to see their personalities.”

One of his goals as both a coach and a mentor of students is simply to help point students in the right direction, who may not otherwise know which direction they want to go after school, something he said was a challenge for him growing up. 

“Just because you try hard doesn’t mean you’re always going to figure it out right away, (especially) if you don’t have someone to point you in the right direction,” he said. “When you’re 14 to 18, you’re expected to know so much, but you really don’t.”

That person for him was Rusty Wrinkle, a science teacher at GBHS during Loera’s years there.

“He was always there to check up on me, to see how I was doing,” he said. “He would ask questions to make me think beyond today, like, ‘what’s your plan for next year? What are you thinking about doing after high school?’”

This is advice he tries to pass on to his students, as well. It’s okay not to have everything figured out, but it’s important to always be planning beyond today for what you might want to do in the future.

“It’s okay not to know, but it’s not okay not to have a plan,” he said. “If your answer is ‘I don’t know,’ usually it’s going to get you somewhere you don’t want to be.”

Work in the classroom

But Loera’s work with students extends well beyond the playing field and into the classroom.

GBHS Principal Tim Friess said Loera has been a huge blessing to the school. “He has always done a great job as our soccer coach reaching his Soccer kids and now he is connecting with all of our students. He has come in and worked hard to build relationships with kids and staff and has been a big part of changing the culture here at GBHS every day.”

After years of working with the City of Great Bend, Loera is in his first year working as a family engagement coordinator at GBHS. His job there, he said, is to bridge the gap of communication between school and home.

This involves helping parents be more engaged daily with their students’ progress, academics and activities at school. From the students’ perspectives, he said, his job is to help students to find ways to be more involved and engaged at school.

“if you’re not an athlete, great,” Loera said. “Whatever it may be, there’s something we believe that there’s something for everyone at the high school, and so we’re just trying to find a spot for them, so they don’t think that there’s not something available for them.”

For Loera, that means helping students discover what they’re passionate about, and how to channel that passion into direction.

“As long as they have an interest, most likely, they’re by a little bit of research, and maybe talking to some of these people that already in our community only, like if they have if they’re interested in construction or architecture, you know, maybe we find somebody in the community that they can visit with,” he said.

Learning hands on from people in the community is something he wishes he’d had more of when he was younger, and something he wants to pass on to the students he works with. He’s sought to bring in workers in several different fields so the students can see for themselves what those careers are about, and how to get where the want to go in those fields.

The direction he tries to offer students is now direction he’s putting to work in his own life. Outside of the classroom, Loera said there was a lot of life lessons he had to learn the hard way, with not a lot of people around him who’d encountered the situations he was facing, particularly financially.

Those same situations are ones he wants to make sure he, and others, help the students prepare for, so that they don’t have to learn the hard way like he did.

“Everyday situations (like finances), finding balance and how to manage those kinds of things, is something that I think we don’t cover enough for our for our students. And that’s something that we have also tried to cover with them as well.”

And now, having embraced his love of working with students, Loera is now working toward a full-time career in education at the high school.

Loera is currently working toward an associate’s degree through Barton Community College, with his goal being to eventually obtain a teaching degree through Fort Hays State University’s Transition to Teaching program. Eventually, he wants to teach Spanish or history at GBHS.

“I like being around the kids, and I like helping them figure themselves out, so I’d like to find a classroom (to do that),” he said.

Outside of the classroom, family is a central focus in Loera’s life.

The oldest of seven kids, he said he still enjoys spending time with his siblings and their families. Plus, Loera is now growing a family of his own. Loera and his wife had their first child, a daughter, who was born September of last year. 

“If it’s not school, and it’s not soccer, it’s family,” he said.