Annual hoops tournament draws special needs players and approving fans

EL PASO — On an April weekend a local high school gym was full of energy and excitement as a group of adults with special needs prepared to participate in a basketball tournament.The games were attended by members of local community centers and a crowd of some 200 fans roaring encouragement to motivate the teams to victory.Participants are in a government funded program, Community Development Block Grant (CDBG), which allows persons with disabilities to participate and promotes healthy lifestyles that include cultural and social activities. The Multipurpose CDBG Strikers is a group of special needs students who created a team as a part of the Special Olympics.The team is coached by Edward Gonzales. Participants with the local recreation center prepared for their first game of the tournament with smiles and determination.Two teams from that center were able to participate and enjoy an awards ceremony after their tournament games at the recreation center.”I’ve coached other teams before and it’s not so much that you’re helping them out but I personally like the challenge,” said Gonzalez, “I like the idea of doing something different and helping them excel considering their disabilities if I can make them just a little bit better mentally and physically thats what I like.”Tanya Guzman a player on the Strikers team said that the coaching staff “is into it; they worked us hard; we had a good exercise.”Gonzalez said early on it was tough for him to coach the disabled young adults. “Initially, the parents didn’t seem to take it seriously and after they saw me yelling at their kids almost every practice they realized how serious we were and they jumped on board and the support turned out to be very good.”The participants are a part of a daily disability exercise program that allows them to stay active and be a part of sports, weight training, water aerobics, arts and crafts, and computer skills training. Also several field trips and social gatherings are planned by the participant’s parents committee to give them an opportunity to enjoy the city.

Football players give praise and express concern after gay all-American ‘comes out’

EL PASO — To his dad, he is one who will have “many hurdles to cross”. To his University of Missouri teammates and coaches, he is first-team all-American and Associated Press defensive player of the year in the SEC. To athletes and sports affiliates he is a “courageous young man” and a football player. To some though, he is the gay football player. He is Michael Sam.

UTEP prepares to host Baja Buggy Race

EL PASO — Wearing tight-fitting safety glasses, two engineering students concentrate on turning pieces of metal on a lathe hoping to create the perfect component for an impressive Baja Buggy that they hope will catch the attention of recruiters. The students at work in an engineering workshop on the University of Texas at El Paso campus belong to Mad Pete’s Motorsports, a team of mechanical engineers who are part of the national Society of Automotive Engineering (SAE). Their goal is to construct buggies — modified off-road motor vehicles — to compete in the Big Baja Society of Automotive Engineering event that takes outside the UTEP Student Recreation Center from April 24 – 27. Although UTEP has participated in the Baja Buggy Race for over three decades, it has been 16 years since the school hosted the annual SAE event on campus. This time over 100 teams from around the world will compete here to see which ones have the best engineering skills to build efficient, safe, responsive buggies.

Football coaches debate the possible benefits and dangers of marijuana use

EL PASO — The week before the Super Bowl, Seattle Seahawks Head Coach, Pete Carroll was asked about his thoughts on the use in the NFL of medicinal marijuana, which is legal in the state of Washington. Carroll said that the NFL needs to continue to find ways to make football a better game by taking care of its players in the best way possible. “The fact that it’s [medicinal marijuana] in the world of medicine is obviously something [that Commissioner Roger Goodell] realizes.” Carroll said he supports the commissioner’s “expression that we need to follow the information and the research.”

Carroll said that regardless of the stigmas involved, he thinks “we have to do this because the world of medicine is trying to do the exact same thing and figure it out and they’re coming to some conclusions.” University of Texas at El Paso head football Coach Sean Kugler said he does not agree with Carroll. “I have my own opinions about drugs and college athletes, and that is handled within our program,” he said.

Longtime El Paso sports writer Ray Sanchez remembers the laughs and the tears

EL PASO — Ray Sanchez, considered the first Hispanic sports writer in El Paso, has a long view of local sports history and he remembers the stories that made him laugh and cry in his latest book. “I had a lot of happy parts in my book that I enjoyed. There were so many games, so many great ones,” said Sanchez about his latest book The Good, The Bad, And the Funny of El Paso Sports History, “But I guess the biggest thrill I got, and it was so emotional that I almost cried when I would write it, was when the Miners won this 1966 championship.”

He has written seven books, all of them about sports. He was a sports writer for the El Paso Herald-Post from 1950 to 1990. He was a columnist for the El Paso Times, and currently writes for El Paso, Inc. He has won numerous awards for his coverage.

A giant rattlesnake bike risen by six volunteers from Austin Bike Zoo participated in a bicycle ride from Cleveland Square into Downtown Juarez last October. (Lucia Quinonez/

Cycling in El Paso/Juarez is still a ‘green idea’

EL PASO — Methods of transportation are constantly evolving, in hopes of improving air quality and congestion. One increasingly popular alternative to driving in many urban centers across the country is cycling, and El Paso is embracing the trend in fits and starts. Recently, the El Paso Metropolitan Planning Office (MPO) approved a budget to help partly fund phase one of a citywide Bike Share program. The city’s tentative commitment to making El Paso a bike-friendly community comes at a time when cycling races or challenges have risen in popularity and cycling meet-ups such as Critical Mass are taking off. Sem Gallegos, 25, service manager of Crazy Cat Cyclery, attests to the growing popularity of cycling in El Paso.

UTEP running back Josh Bell at a recent game vs FIU. (Ivan Pier Aguirre/Courtesy of UTEP Athletics)

Concussions bedevil sports, but today they are taken seriously

EL PASO — Any athlete can suffer some type of brain injury in a game or in practice during a career especially in the very competitive college and pro sports. Most athletes get concussions, but they are usually unaware of the injury, so they continue to play. But today, any symptoms are taken very seriously by trainers and coaches to make sure that their players are safe. Some symptoms that should be flagged right away are headaches, fuzzy or blurry vision, nausea and vomiting, dizziness, sensitivity to light or noise, balance problems, or fatigue lack of energy to do anything. Other symptoms include emotional problems such as easily getting upset, sad, nervous or anxious.

The Bowl Championship Series (BCS) is new, but is it better?

EL PASO — In college football you have the top 25 NCAA rankings and all 119 teams dream of being ranked number one and winning the national championship. But only two teams get to play for it at the end of the year. The Bowl Championship Series (BCS) is changing that. The BCS is a system set up with conference commissioners who take about a year to put the playoff games together. In 2014 four of the top teams will get the right to play for the title instead of only the two teams of previous years.

¡Nos vamos al Mundial!… Casi.

EL PASO – Nunca he sido muy fanático del fútbol (soccer) y, por lo tanto, no veo mucho fútbol, salvo partidos ‘importantes y relevantes’ para la selección mexicana, como podría ser un partido definitivo en algún campeonato, un partido en el mundial o algún partido de clasificación al mundial, como el que se llevó a cabo ayer (13 de noviembre de 2013). Por primera vez en trece años, o bien tras cuatro mundiales, México estuvo a punto de no clasificar. La última vez de tal ‘vergüenza nacional’ fue en 1990, cuando, según se cuenta, la selección no llegó al mundial de Italia por culpa de los “cachirules”, aunque al respecto mi curiosidad no es tanta para animarme a indagar lo que verdaderamente sucedió. Lo que sí me causa mucha curiosidad es lo que pasa ahora. El partido que jugó El Tri fue contra la selección de Nueva Zelanda, que generalmente ha sido desestimada como una selección de nivel amateur, conformada por ciudadanos que no son precisamente, ni de lejos, futbolistas profesionales.

Germad Reed

Football teaches you the discipline to hit hard and when knocked down, get up and do it again

EL PASO – I look to the sideline at my position coach to get the call, a series of quick hand signals repeated three times. “Over 4 Dagger Right Echo,” I yell out to my teammates so that we all can be on the same page. Now, I look at the Tulane University lineup formation and recall what plays they run out of the 10 personal formations. The first number is for how many backs are in and the second number tells how many tight ends. In this formation the quarterback is usually aligned in shotgun with the back either to his left or right.

Thalia, a powerful and intimidating (?) Chihuahua. (Jose Luis Hernandez/

The El Paso Chihuahuas – The image of powerful, intimidating winners… really?

EL PASO – It’s been two weeks since I was sitting down at home and watching the live-stream of the announcement of El Paso’s new Triple A Baseball team name at the Plaza Theatre, and I still can’t believe what I heard and saw. After all the suspense and speculation, I let out a loud and horrified “no!” as I saw the name “Chihuahuas” being unveiled. When friends texted me saying how mortifying and ridiculous the name was, I realized I wasn’t the only one who was horrified and embarrassed. How this name was chosen over more intimidating names like Sun Dogs, Desert Gators, or Buckaroos is beyond my comprehension.

Terr'l Mark. (Courtesy of UTEP Athletics)

Overcoming self-doubt and perfecting my skills led me to play college football

EL PASO – At 5 feet 11 inches tall and weighing in at 125 pounds the main obstacle to fulfilling my dream of playing football was my own fear that I was just too small, but with the encouragement from family and coaches I focused on technical skills and I made varsity in my senior year in high school. Born in the small town of Lufkin, TX as a young boy one of three kids, I dreamed of playing football as every other child did and I started early. My mom who worked in a hospital and my father, who works as a truck driver, gave me the opportunity to play football at the age of 7. Not knowing what to expect come from this sport. I was pretty excited to go up against kids who had been in this game far longer than I had.

Track athlete Tako-Khady Niare. (Michael P. Reese, courtesy of UTEP Athletics)

UTEP track star leaped the high bar of language and culture to succeed in America

EL PASO – As a track athlete since age 11, Tako-Khady Niare has participated in highly competitive high-jump competitions around the United States and in her native France. But when she moved to El Paso in January 2010 when she was 22 years old to join the UTEP track team she said she confronted one of the biggest obstacles of her life. “The process to be ‘accepted’ was one of the hardest things,” said Niare who spoke little English when she applied for her international student visa to study in the U.S. “I had to fill out lots of papers and pass two tests,” she remembers. She said that a friend connected her to recruiters at UTEP because for the longest time she had wanted to find a good university and an especially good coach in the United States. The UTEP track team needed a high jumper and Niare jumped at the opportunity.

Defensive end #18, James Davidson, in his fifth year with the UTEP Miners. (Germad Reed/

A college football player ponders his options after graduation

EL PASO – James Davidson started playing football and Tae Kwon Do when he was eight years old but his parents always told him that school was more important than anything else. Entering his senior year with a major in criminal justice at the University of Texas at El Paso, Davidson, 23, has an important decision ahead of him – what to do after he walks across the graduation stage. Davidson who is 6’3 and 235 pounds plays defensive end for the UTEP  Miners and is a three-time champ in Tae Kwon Do. He has played every position on defense, starting at safety, linebacker, to defensive end and he even played on special teams returning some kicks and punts. He was regarded as one of the top 20 defensive backs in high school in Huntsville, Texas, and according to Scout, a sports ranking website, he was the No.128 high school safety in the nation. He was also an honorable mention selection on defense in the 2008 Associated Press 4A All-State team.

Johne at the gym on "leg day". (Cristina Quinones/

Lifting weights is the easy part of a body builder’s training

EL PASO – A young man in his early 20’s, wearing a tank top, earphones, and shorts puts down a pair of weights and sweating, calmly looks up at his own reflection in the gym mirror. He’s been lifting weights since he was 18 and today Johne Green is a competitive body builder.  On August 31st, he was awarded 1st Place in Novice Middleweight and 5th place in Light heavy weight open division at his first competition in the Sun City Regional Qualification trials. Green admits that when he was first introduced to lifting, he was not interested; “My father always worked out, so he tried to get me to work out too. I wasn’t really into it until I was about 17, and then I began really getting into lifting and keeping in shape.” Now just a few years later, Green is a fitness enthusiast and an amateur body builder.  After years of lifting, his colleagues and friends began asking him for advice to help them reach their fitness goals.  He offered his advice, and training free of cost to help out, and because he loved staying in shape.

Having skate parks for El Paso’s action sports enthusiast also draws them more into the community, and according to Robertson, helps encourage good citizenship. (David A. Reyes)

Local nonprofit propels skateboarding into area parks

EL PASO – El Paso City Council approves a $1.4 million bond for the construction of the largest skate park in the region with help from a tireless local organization. The new state-of-the-art skate park in Northeast El Paso, began construction in June financed by the 2012 Quality of Life bonds approved by City Council. The park is scheduled to be completed by August 30, 2014. “We firmly believe that skateboarding, BMX, and all action sports are here to stay,” said Bill Robertson, assistant professor at the University of Texas at El Paso and member of the El Paso Skatepark Association, “[these sports are] part of our culture, and by making parks available you’re actually extending opportunities not only to young people, but also to families.”

Part of this skate-park project stems from an idea that Robertson, Paul Zimmerman, and Gabe Lawler devised back in 2008, when skateboarders and El Paso City Hall got together to build more “high quality” concrete facilities for skateboarders, according to the association. The El Paso Skatepark Association has ushered in 17 skate parks in El Paso County, with 10 within city limits.

Boxer Amanda Ramirez poses next to his trainer, Herman Delgado. (Frankie Rodriguez/

Her will to win undefeated, Amanda Ramirez keeps on punching

EL PASO – With the sour taste of defeat still in her mouth from last year’s Golden Gloves tournament, Amanda Ramirez went on a tough yearlong training program hoping to win this year, but she lost the bout in a close decision. Her will to push until she wins, however, remains undefeated. The 23-year-old El Pasoan boxer, now a graduate of A&M, class of 2011, trained all year for the 71st annual Regional Golden Gloves tournament that took place on Feb. 15 at the El Paso County Coliseum but was defeated by Sasha Villalva in the Female Division, 135-pound class. “I felt disappointed.

Even a die-hard sports fan as Domingo Martinez, struggles to keep up with NCAA team realignments. (Courtesy of Domingo Martinez)

Scratching the surface of the NCAA team realignment

EL PASO – The mambo jumbo conference-switching going on in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) is crazy. With all those schools switching conferences for various reasons, I can only just scratch the surface in this column. There are many schools changing for the better, but maybe switching conferences can be harmful if the school is not really ready for the change. A change can be for good, for better, or for worse. More recently the NCAA Division 1 had many teams switching into other conferences such as WAC, Conference USA, Big East, BIG TEN, ACC, and others for various reasons, such as fame, more money, more national exposure or just to cut back on travel time and costs.

The “Caveman diet” is catching on among health-conscious gym enthusiasts

IMPERIAL, Calif.–Brittany Weiderman doesn’t look like a caveman, but she sure eats like one.  This five-foot tall, 115-pound beauty gets her muscle by push-pressing nearly half her weight and following one of the latest popular diets, the Paleo. “Going Paleo helped everything from my mood to my digestive system. I really noticed a difference in how I felt in a matter of days,” the 25-year-old El Centro hair stylist said. “I’ve had less bloating and more energy that lasts throughout the day instead of just spurts of energy.”

Weiderman converted to the Paleo lifestyle, which is gaining popularity like the previous fads such as the Atkins or South Beach diets.  Paleo has become famous all over the map, even in the Imperial Valley. The Paleolithic diet, also known as the Caveman diet, gets its name from the idea that our bodies are made to digest foods that our hunter-gatherer ancestors consumed.  The paleolithic era was before the agricultural revolution, which proponents claim caused “diseases of civilization,” such as obesity, hypertension, and inflammatory diseases.

New UTEP football Head Coach Sean Kugler. (Domingo Martinez/

UTEP football – New coach, new attitude, new season

EL PASO – After nine seasons, the University Texas at El Paso head football coach Mike Price decided to retire in the final year of his contract, in November 2012. A few weeks later UTEP Director of Athletics Bob Stull hired former UTEP offensive linesman, assistant coach and Pittsburgh Steelers assistant coach Sean Kugler. The players expect Kugler to take UTEP football to the top like the last two head coaches did. “Our new coach is a real strict guy,” said wide receiver Jacob Garcia a sophomore majoring in criminal justice.  “It’s goanna be a positive impact with the team because we’re going to have more discipline with him and the new coaching staff. It can help the team do our best on Saturdays and maybe win more games and go to a bowl game,” said Garcia.

This year's Senior Games have over 300 participants that will compete in over 15 events. (Luis Barrio/

El Paso’s senior athletes still compete to win after all these years

EL PASO – On a recent March morning, 76-year-old Armando Uranga sat on the gymnasium bleachers dripping sweat and catching his breath. He had just played a strenuous 20-minute game of basketball with three other competitors as part of this year’s El Paso Senior Games. After playing in the games for the last 12 years, Uranga considers them his fountain of youth. “I felt like I was in my backyard like when I was a kid, it was so much fun,” said Uranga, who has already competed in the 5K walk, the 3K walk and plans to participate in Saturday’s track and field event at Montwood High School. In its 31st year, the El Paso Senior Games are a beacon drawing residents to get out and be physically active or go watch the community’s senior athletes compete.  With a variety of events, the games are for persons 50 years of age and older who participate in activities ranging from swimming to cycling, basketball to track and field.

Former MLB player gives back to Imperial Valley

IMPERIAL, Calif.- After playing 24 years of professional baseball for nine different teams and 13 major organizations and being a 2008 World Series champion for the Philadelphia Phillies, Imperial Valley native Rudy Seanez returned to his home to help inspire young and old alike. “I’ve always lived here. This is home. I grew up in Brawley. My family is here, so that was factor number one,” said Seanez in an interview at his Seanez Sports Academy.

Trevor Vittatoe former University of Texas at EL Paso (UTEP) star quarterback is now an independent corporate distributor for Direct TV. (Andrea Castro/

With pro leagues out of reach, many college athletes fall back on their education

EL PASO – Kobe Bryant and LeBron James, arguably two of the greatest athletes of all time, started their pro careers right after high school, skipping college. But for college athletes shooting their last basket or throwing their last touchdown, the end of a season means a transition from a life of organized athletics to a real world of hope and frustration. Although they have one advantage – a college education – in reality a lot of players who do exceptionally well on the college field or court struggle with the fact that they’re out of the limelight once their senior season is over. “It was a hard adjustment at first because you’re used to a routine of practicing and being with the guys,” said Trevor Vittatoe, former University of Texas at EL Paso (UTEP) star quarterback. “After trying for two years, I’ve fallen short of making an NFL roster.”

While Vittatoe waited to get picked by an NFL team, working to make ends meet slowly became a part of his life.

Is a pair of shoes really worth a life? (Ellisia Shaefer/

Some sneaker-heads think Air Jordans are to die for… others die for their sneakers

EL PASO – Winter cold is blowing and Christmas trees and lights are set up around the mall as a line stretches around the Cielo Vista Mall into the Foot Locker on the drop date for the latest Air Jordan 11 “Playoff” sneakers. Worn by the National Basketball Association’s phenomenon Michael Jordan of the Chicago Bulls. The Jordan Brand has remained a popular and growing one-billion-dollar investment even after Jordan retired. The release of a new model Air Jordan still causes a shopping frenzy among the so-called sneaker-heads – consumers who will go to any extremes to buy a pair of the shoes at an average price of $185 every month. The fascination sneaker heads have with these shoes goes beyond just the Air Jordans, says Bryan Polk a sneaker-head living in Baltimore.

The Dead Bolts is one of only three other men’s roller derby teams in Texas. (Amber Watts/

The renegade Sun City Roller Girls shoved the Dead Bolts into El Paso men’s roller derby

EL PASO – Glares from overhanging lights reflect off of a sprawling shiny concrete floor, as the skaters whizz by poles and stay within the “white invisible lines” of the flat track where they practice. Wobbly players wear their helmets for safety and insignia. One marked with a yellow star struggles to pass the pack, and fumbles through a wall of men who will either block or assist him. Ivy Ashley Marie Ruiz, or as the derby world knows her, Miss Prettie Poison, is a 23-year-old student at the University of Texas at El Paso. She coaches fellow veteran roller-derby players and the “fresh meat,” which is the six-week derby 101 program for women, and now men, who are trying out for the five-year-old Sun City Roller Girls league.

La nueva franquicia de los Indios, ahora auspiciados por la UACJ, espera que los aficionados abracen sus nuevos colores, blanco y azul. (Iliana Estrada/

Los Indios de la Universidad Autónoma presentan una nueva oportunidad en el fútbol profesional de Juárez

CIUDAD JUAREZ – La desafiliación del equipo de fútbol Indios de Ciudad Juárez del máximo circuito del balompié nacional, ocurrida en diciembre de 2011, causó sorpresa y desolación entre los miles de aficionados y seguidores que en ambos lados de la frontera jamás dejaron de apoyar a su equipo del alma. “Era increíble que apenas hace dos años antes estábamos en semifinales de la Liguilla y ahora el equipo estaba desapareciendo”, recuerda con nostalgia Jesús García, un fanático del club quien en ese entonces siguió de cerca la noticia de la repentina disolución de su equipo de fútbol preferido. Jesús, al igual que miles de simpatizantes de la oncena juarense, quedó de pronto sin la oportunidad de poder disfrutar del fútbol profesional en una ciudad que durante el último lustro fue castigada por la ola de violencia y crimen. La causa de esa repentina culminación, según se informó, fueron los adeudos económicos que la directiva mantenía con sus jugadores. Parecía que todo llegaba a su fin.

“People call me the one-eyed bandit. I don’t mind", says Perez.

For Isaac Perez the football may be out of sight, but not out of mind

EL PASO — It’s third down and eight and wide receiver Isaac Perez needs to make a play for the Burges High School football team. He just hopes he can see the ball. For Perez, the play won’t be just pitch-and-catch like it is for any other player. Catching the ball and running for the touchdown is a process of complex decisions that are made from the moment of the snap, to the instant the ball leaves the quarterbacks’ hand. Perez has to twist his body so that his right side faces the incoming pass.

A devout yogi for 3 years, Garza's flexibility and balance has increased considerably. (Jessica Alvarez/

Yoga practice stretches to new heights in El Paso

EL PASO — Yoga –the fastest growing form of exercise in America–  is connecting the body, the mind and spirit of El Pasoans in greater numbers than ever. Currently over 20 million Americans practice yoga on a regular basis and five new yoga studios emerged here in the past year, drawing as many new practitioners to bend and stretch as there are different reasons to join. “Yoga is an ancient Indian body of knowledge that dates back more than 5,000 years. The word yoga comes from the Sanskrit word yuj, which means ‘to unite or integrate,” according to the website the a-b-c of yoga. Yoga then, is about uniting a person’s consciousness with the universal consciousness.