Griffins’ Haley, Stubler win SWL awards
Slumber parties won’t fly with boys.
That was one of the first things Nick Stubler had to teach new District 51 Griffins boys swimming coach Jessica Haley.
“It was such a success with the girls,” Haley said with a young, vibrant laugh.
Haley, who has coached the Fruita Monument girls swimming team the past four seasons, coached the District 51 Griffins boys swimming team this spring.
Challenge one: It was the first time Haley has coached a high school boys team.
Challenge two: She is 28 years old.
“She would just ask if certain things were normal for guys to do,” Stubler said.
Not only did Haley find out what works with boys, she coached the Griffins to a Western Slope title.
Southwestern League coaches also voted Haley as the league’s coach of the year.
Stubler, a senior at Fruita Monument, diver with the Griffins and second cousin of Haley, was selected the SWL swimmer/diver of the year.
“I learned a lot about boys,” Haley said. “I came into the season with two rules. Rule No. 1: You need to listen to coach. Rule No. 2: Clean up after yourself. By the end of the season we had 20 rules: No biting, no punching, no drowning ... “
And no losing.
For the fifth consecutive season, the Griffins won the Western Slope title.
After replacing Dale Leonhart, who has coached the Griffins for 20 years, Haley didn’t want to be the one to end the streak.
“I knew if I was going to stay as coach it depended on winning the championship,” Haley said. “You can’t come in and break that legacy and be OK.”
And now she was coaching teenage boys.
“It was intimidating,” Haley said.
Haley learned that her male athletes wanted straight talk. “No fluff,” she said.
The females she coached, on the other hand, wanted criticism with a few scoops of sugar.
“With girls you have to give a lot more compliments,” Haley said. “With boys, for example, if Austin Acree came over and said, ‘Gosh, that was bad,’ I look at him and be honest and say, ‘Yeah, it was.’ With girls you say, ‘Well, it wasn’t too bad. You did this real well.’ “
Her achievement was adapting to gender differences and, in a few months, learning and leading them to a 25-point win over second-place Montrose for the league title.
Stubler, a senior headed to the University of Denver, placed second in the Western Slope meet and 19th at the Class 5A state championships.
And he is proud of Haley, his distant cousin.
“I’m proud of how we developed,” Stubler said. “Going into the season, I think a lot of coaches thought Montrose was going to win this year.”
In Haley’s experience, that’s the main thing that separated her boys and girls teams: Overall goals.
“With girls, when I have my team meeting, I ask them, ‘What do you want out of the season?’ ” Haley said. “With girls they want to have fun, be a team and get along. With boys, it’s: ‘We want to win Western Slopes and take a bus to state.’ ”