As University High School coach Ricky Perez tried to remain motionless at the top of a double ramp in the campus gym, he made the Catholic sign of the cross as a man raced toward him on a BMX bike.
Perez didn’t think he’d be the one to sit in the chair in front of about 800 students, and he certainly didn’t know whether the bike’s tires would clear his head by 4 feet as promised. Yet, when another faculty member nominated for the stunt didn’t show, Perez volunteered.
“I volunteered for the kids. As a coach, they were talking about the ‘A’ game, and as a coach, I’m going to bring my ‘A’ game and help and support in any way I can to show the kids what can be done,” said Perez, who coaches boys and girls soccer and heads the cross-country team.
“It’s very important because in life, it’s always about bringing your ‘A’ game, no matter if it’s in sports or after your four years of high school. For whatever you want to be in life, it’s about working hard and bringing your ‘A’ game every day.”
The stunt, completed successfully, was part of one of the performances Wednesday at two local schools for the “Bring Your ‘A’ Game to School” campaign by AGA Nation, sponsored by the U.S. Army National Guard.
Lorena High School and University High were nominated by recruiter and Sgt. 1st Class Sefo Fanene for the program, along with dozens of other schools across the state. The program is free to the schools.
Lorena and University were the only McLennan County schools selected for the event.
Geared toward pushing leadership skills through action-packed stunts and audience interaction, the assembly of BMX riders discussed the six “A’s” of education and what it looks like when students bring their “A” game on a regular basis. The “A’s” stand for anti-bullying, personal achievement, maximizing abilities, staying active, being authentic and having the right attitude, all of which align with core values held by the National Guard, BMX rider and team manager Dan Sieg said during the show.
“This is probably my sixth time doing it, and I’ve been a part of the program for two years. It’s a great program. It’s awesome, and these bike riders are doing some amazing stuff,” National Guard Master Sgt. Jabin Wade said.
“After we do the show, we usually come back to the school and set up in the lunchroom or something, and these kids, they come by and they remember this.”
That memorable impact is exactly what Lorena High counselor Andrea Lail hopes the show accomplished, considering it is a different and engaging way to reach students about issues they face as they try to figure out who they are, Lail said.
“High school kids are not real receptive to adults walking up and saying, ‘This is what you need to do, and this is how you do it,’ ” she said. “But this kind of presentation, where it’s exciting and these athletes are cool and they’re saying these are good qualities, then it’s more impactful to students.”
About 540 students saw Wednesday’s performance at Lorena High, and as BMX riders flew through the air in the school’s gym, one student said the program changed how he sees his future. Lorena High junior Hunter Isham learned that the National Guard might be an option to help him pay for college, he said. The tricks weren’t bad, either, he said.
“The whole idea of the military and National Guard kind of creates leadership and a sense of urgency to become a leader and become someone better. You’re not obliged to do anything, but if you give back to your community, it will help you in the long run,” Isham said.
“A lot of the stunts, those were pretty sick. I’m not going to lie, I was pretty impressed, especially when they brought audience members out, such as our teacher, Mr. Elliot, and the four students they jumped over.
“It’s pretty cool when our counselors help us out and try to give us opportunities to see other stuff. This created an opportunity for me to think about joining the military.”
Back at University High, as the athletes finished the program with a few more flips over the double ramp, the program reinforced skills already known to Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps students Janet Moreno and LaQuan Quinton. Both a year from graduating, they said the program reminded them hard work and dedication can take a person far in life, and the National Guard has leaders they can admire.
“These skills can take you from doing nothing all day to actually having a dream and finding a way to accomplish that goal,” said Quinton, who wants to join the U.S. Marines after college.