Ryan Wallace, James Sandoval, and Larry Arroyo win Woodlake awards while using football to teach youth life lessons


By Patrick Dillon @PDillon_SGN

WOODLAKE – Not all lessons are learned in the classroom, some come from the grit it takes to compete on the gridiron. And while coaches dress down in shorts, t-shirts, hats and whistles make no mistake they are teachers nonetheless. The similarities are endless. Coaches, like teachers, spend hours outside regular working hours trying to figure out ways for their kids to succeed, they pull money out of their own pocket to get kids the equipment they need, and they foster potential in the ones who show promise.

And for their unwavering dedication Woodlake Youth Football was awarded the 2017 Commitment to Youth award, and former Pop Warner coach Larry Arroyo was given the 2017 Youth Mentor of the Year award.

Ryan Wallace, president of the Woodlake Youth Football organization, only views himself as the figure head of the organization. On the board with him are six other members. He says, along with the kids, are the real deservers of the award.

“It is very nice to see that all our hard work has not gone unnoticed,” Wallace said. “I think if people put forth just a little bit of effort it will get noticed.”

It is the small bit of effort which Wallace is trying to instill into the players on their six teams. While winning is import, the organization is trying to do more. Coaches are expected to be positive role models. Team work, communication, and respect are also highly valued lessons which are taught.

Wallace began coaching eight years ago, and the lessons taught to those first players are being used well. On many occasions he has had former players come up to him thanking him for teaching them the lessons through the sport.

“It brings a tear to my eye,” Wallace said. “It is all for the kids is why we do this.”

Vice president James Sandoval’s purpose behind becoming a board member was kid driven as well. A former Woodlake youth player he wanted to see the game persevered from when he played.

“I love Woodlake, and I love the kids,” Sandoval said. “I try and give back to the community as much as I can.”

A competitive person, even at a young age, Sandoval took the winning and losing of a game seriously. To him it is something which is missing from sports today. Bantam football teams don’t keep official scores. However, when Sandoval coached Woodlake’s team he kept score. After games he told his team whether they had won or lost. Sandoval’s purpose was to keep the competitive nature alive.

“When they grow up they will want to be better and want to do better,” Sandoval said. “It is amazing to see these little kids grow and that is where I get my drive.”

Fortunate enough for the two of them they’ve had coaches come through like Larry Arroyo. He coached at the Pop Warner level in Woodlake for 26 years, and influenced the lives hundreds of kids. He was also a junior varsity football coach for six years. Recently retired the news to Arroyo was a shock.

“This award was totally unexpected,” Arroyo said.

The transition from player to coach was almost instantaneous. In 1979 Arroyo finished up a four year varsity career under Leo Robinson. The very next fall Robinson offered him a coaching position with the youth program. One he took and ran with.

While an athlete Arroyo was only focused on playing the game. Instead he learned discipline from Robinson. That is something which he brought to the table when coaching his own teams.

“I believe if you are discipline on the field than you are going to take that discipline home and it will stay with the kids throughout their lives,” Arroyo said.

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