The Clovis Community College athletic department is breaking ground.
Last spring, swimming and diving got things going, making its debut as the first sport on campus. Today the college now also offers men’s and women’s soccer, which have made their inaugural debuts here in the fall.
When meeting with other school officials to discuss the possibility of implementing sports, CCC athletic director Susan Yates said the college almost felt like it had to in order to integrate itself with the already-prolific sports scene in Clovis.
“When Willow International Center became Clovis Community College and became eligible to have athletics, the community was definitely in favor of it,” Yates said. “Any school located in Clovis is almost a must for having athletics, and so I think not only were they [the community] in favor, but it was almost an expectation.”
All CCC programs are affiliated with the Central Valley Conference, which includes local junior colleges like Fresno City College, Reedley College and College of the Sequoias.
The top reason behind adding swimming and diving and soccer as the first two sports was facility-driven. The college wanted sports that could be played on a facility that they already had in place or one that they could share with a local high school or adjacent facility.
“On July 1 of last year we became a college and the president at the time, president [Deborah] Ikeda wanted athletics from the get-go. We actually started planning for it in 2014,” Yates said. “The fact that we had no facilities other than a grass area – we knew that if we were going to offer something on campus, the natural fit would be soccer because that’s the type of area it needs as far as a venue.
“Swimming and diving was facility driven. What could we offer that we could have access to facilities?,” she added. “The other thing we look at is ‘what is being offered in the district and what isn’t being offered?’ So when we look at facilities, so we knew that it was a viable option.”
In order to be eligible to participate in sports, students do not necessarily need to be enrolled at Clovis Community College, they can be students at Fresno City College, Reedley College or Madera Community College Center. Yates added that having athletics on campus will not only have a great impact on local athletes that want to continue to play after high school, but enhance the college experience for even those that are not student-athletes.
“I think it [athletics] greatly enhances the student-athlete experience,” she said. “If they’re just coming for classes, they tend to just take their classes and go home. But if there are athletic teams, they stay on campus and get involved in the campus community – and that’s all part of the learning process in college.”
Yates sees these programs setting the foundation for Clovis Community College athletics, which looks to implement more sports in the future as the district master plan includes offering the whole gamut of sports with the exception of football.
“I think that they are leading the way – they are going to be the trailblazers,” she said. “These inaugural programs are going to set the bar for the future of athletics at Clovis Community College, and how they come across to the Clovis community is really going to set a tone for how the campus receives athletics. They are truly the role models and the baseline for what we are going to expect from athletics in the future.”
Women’s soccer kicks off inaugural season under head coach Orlando Ramirez
When former Fresno Pacific player and coach Orlando Ramirez received the offer to be the head coach of the inaugural women’s soccer program at Clovis Community College, he pounced on the opportunity.
“It was kind of surreal,” Ramirez said. “I’ve always wanted to be a head coach at the college level, and the reality is that there are few opportunities to do that here in the Valley – there aren’t so many coaching jobs out there. Once this opportunity presented itself, I knew it was something I couldn’t pass up.”
Ramirez, who spend the last eight years as an assistant at his alma mater, also brings professional experience with having played for the San Jose Earthquakes.
The FPU alum also coached the Buchanan girls soccer team from 2012-’15, leading the Bears to four consecutive DI Valley titles.
Leading a first-year program comes with its challenges, but that’s what intrigues Ramirez the most.
“For me it’s been a great experience to be able to have the opportunity to start something from the ground up,” Ramirez said. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
Former U.S. Olympian Chad McCarty leading men’s soccer program in Year 1
Like Ramirez, Chad McCarty also saw the head coaching job as a perfect fit for him.
“It’s been exciting because it’s new for everyone, including the coaching staff,” McCarty said. “There’s a lot of positive energy, talent and focus because everybody realizes what great of an opportunity we have – and we’re working hard to make sure we have a successful first season.”
McCarty, who took a step up in the coaching ranks, liked the idea of recruiting players and building relationships with them. With the brand-new program still looking for its identity, McCarty said it is tough to make a statement as far as expectations for his group in Year 1, but just wants to see the team improve on a daily basis.
“It’s hard to tell because we don’t’ know what we don’t know and it’s new for all of us. We’re looking for our team to grow and gel together and improve every day. We’re taking it day-by-day and we’re not necessarily measuring or success based on the end-of-the-day result. We know building a program is tough so the idea is to get better today than we were yesterday. That’s really our mindset.”