5211BEtIh279A1BB.lg

(photo by Byron Kennerly)

PACIFICA CHRISTIAN Some high schools have the benefit of making cuts.

With prospective student athletes often times coming out in droves, most athletic programs can pick and choose when it comes to players to fill the many teams available. For Pacifica Christian High School, which opened its doors just four years ago, that isn’t the case.

In fact, despite having a student population of just 150, this small private school not only manages to field a number of teams, but has added sports as fast as possible to build credibility and name recognition.

“It is encouraging to know that you can play a sport even if you aren’t that good at it,” basketball and volleyball player Katrina Heger said. “Sometimes at big schools, students work so hard, but they don’t make the team.

“Here, you will make the team no matter what.”

The results may be mixed at times, but so far, it seems to be working. The Seawolves even boast a California Interscholastic Federation Southern Section title in girls volleyball.

“We really wanted to broaden the student population,” Athletic Director Kevin Kelsey said. “We had a window when we first opened [the school] that once that window was open you have a shot at building a name.

“We try to field as many sports as possible because we’d like to be linked with the heavy hitters in the area. We also don’t want to miss out on a student because we don’t offer their sport of choice.”

While Kelsey knows his school has a long way to catch up with the Santa Monica High School and Crossroads of the world, he believes that being aggressive is the only way for his program to perhaps one day challenge for local supremacy.

But, for now, he just wants to keep things in perspective.

“We want [our students] to be a part of our community,” said Kelsey, who also serves as the head coach of the boys basketball team. “We have good coaches and we want our kids to be around them.”

For many of Pacifica’s student athletes, that often means lettering in multiple sports.

With the athletic program featuring 14 different teams in seven sports, the struggle has been finding athletes who are flexible enough to play on two — and often three — teams during the course of the school year.

Kelsey sees that level of commitment as a key to the success of the program.

“It completely depends on that,” he said. “We have some single sport athletes, but a majority of our athletes are lettering in more than one sport.”

But, ever the salesman, Kelsey said that there is room at Pacifica for one sport athletes, too.

“There is a place for everybody, here,” he added.

With so many chances to be a part of school athletics, it has made for a tight-knit campus where everybody knows each other and comes out in numbers to support every team.

For one athlete, the options afforded him have helped build the school from the ground up.

“I’d say that it is fairly important that we have the chance to play other sports,” senior David Hammer said. “I just like playing a lot and it’s nice to have options.”

Hammer, who starts on both the varsity basketball and volleyball teams, said that the opportunity to letter in both sports helps him on both ends.

“I’ve not seen it work as a disadvantage,” he said. “It is a positive for the school. It gets more kids involved, gets them out of their niche.

“They have a little more invested in the school as a result.”

That investment really shines during home games. Home may be Culver City High School’s gym, but the environment is Pacifica all the way.

“Our kids have really bought in to supporting each other at all of the different events,” Kelsey said. “We try to make that experience as fun as possible.”

Pacifica students even wear the same T-shirts to games as a show of support for their fellow Seawolves.

“Coaches have done a great job of selling that,” he added.

Pacifica may continue to rely on those ever important multiple sport athletes, yet has grown enough to give some respite to those coaches who have been on campus the longest.

Jason Lee, who coaches both boys and girls volleyball, at one point also coached basketball and golf. While he didn’t mind the extra work, he admits that things have changed for the better.

“It’s nice to have the winter season off and just coach two teams,” said Lee, who also plays on the Association of Volleyball Professionals’ beach circuit.

That benefit has come to pass due to the struggles he and other coaches endured during the early days of the program.

“We don’t have the luxury of making cuts,” Lee said. “We get a broad range of athletes and you have to be flexible.”

He remembers the days when his teams had no more than seven players on each squad. With reserves few and far between he said he didn’t have the luxury of sitting people. Everybody had to play if that team was going to be successful.

Those days may be fading into the past, but Lee keeps in mind that it’s that environment that has led to Pacifica’s success.

“Our goal is to be a powerhouse at any sport we undertake,” he said.

daniela@smdp.com