Story and photo by James Kelley
Protégés of successful coaches are said to be part of their coaching tree, but for some people it is much more.
Pima Community College softball head coach Armando Quiroz’s coaching tree also includes part of his family tree. Quiroz’s daughter Rebekah is an assistant coach for the Aztecs.
“It’s awesome, it’s a great experience,” Armando Quiroz said. “I’m very, very lucky, very fortunate. That’s a dad’s dream and a coach’s dream.”
Rebekah Quiroz said coaching with her father is a great experience that helps out her individual coaching.
“It’s amazing,” Rebekah Quiroz said. “It’s good that I’ve grown up a lot as a coach, because I have already played for him, if that makes sense.”
This year is the third year they have been coaching together.
“It’s exactly what I expected because I know how competitive she is,” Armando Quiroz said. “She’s a very competitive player and that never changes. I like the fire.”
Rebekah Quiroz coaches the speed players, a role she used to play on the diamond.
“I do the slapping; we call it the short game. I work with the middle infield and their conditioning, their speed work basically,” Rebekah Quiroz said.
As of April 4, Pima was ranked No. 5 in the nation in batting average, hitting .398. Sophomore outfielder Chelsea Slama is batting .438.
“I wouldn’t be hitting the way I am now if it wasn’t for Rebekah,” Slama said after hitting two inside-the-park home runs on March 21.
Sophomore shortstop Kaity Ingram is second in the Arizona Community College Athletic Conference in triples and runs, with seven and 53, and learned from the former Aztec.
Rebekah Quiroz played for Pima in 2003. She led the country in hitting and was an All-American. That was before her father became the head coach.
“The expectations are always the same,” Rebekah said. “We think the same. It’s not hard, because we are always on the same level.”
After leaving Pima, Rebekah Quiroz played for the University of Arizona and for Tucson’s professional softball team, the Arizona Heat.
“She was an outstanding player and she’s an outstanding coach. It’s just a carryover, I wish I could put her in the lineup every once in a while,” Armando Quiroz said. “She’s a winner, she wants to win and she knows how to win.”
Rebekah Quiroz started coaching at Pima in 2005-06 as an assistant for its previous head coach, Stacy Iveson. When Iveson left for Yavapai College, Armando Quiroz was hired.
“I knew her résumé since she was a baby,” Armando said, laughing, when asked if he gave her resume a thorough check. “We were lucky to keep her.”
After Armando was hired, the Aztecs went 38-14-1 in 2008 and 52-17 in 2009.
“They’re fantastic,” Slama said. “Coach rides us, but just because he cares, because he is a good coach. I don’t think we would have the charisma and the strength to push it through —16 games in one week—without Coach on us like that.”
Rebekah Quiroz also played for her father when she was in high school and the duo formed a successful partnership.
“As a player in high school, we won two state championships. Her junior and senior year, we were state champions at Flowing Wells High School,” Armando Quiroz said. “So that was like a dream come true.”
In addition to the back-to-back titles in 1999 and 2000, Armando won a state championship in 2002. It would be his final with the Caballeros.
In 2005, he left Flowing Wells to coach Eastern New Mexico University. He coached for two years before leaving for Pima.
Armando Quiroz said mutual respect doesn’t always equal agreement.
“Even though we think alike a lot, we also disagree and I respect everything she says,” Armando Quiroz said. “She’ll come and say ‘let’s do this’ and I listen to her because she is a fantastic ball player. We don’t always agree, but we have a respect for each other.”
The Quiroz duo believes their connection helps them recruit and helps better the program.
“I think if we recruit as a family, we get that family atmosphere,” Rebekah Quiroz said. “That is huge if we know that I can coach with my dad, be on the same field with him. We’re recruiting that kind of atmosphere here at Pima. That’s what we want.”
Armando Quiroz agreed that it is beneficial for Pima.
“We go out to tournaments and we recruit together,” Armando Quiroz said. “Everybody in town knows who she is.”
Next up for the father-daughter combo: introducing themselves to the softball nation as they try to win Pima’s first national championship since 2006.