After long history with high school tennis programs, John Aragon announces he will not coach Steamboat girls this season | SteamboatToday.com

After long history with high school tennis programs, John Aragon announces he will not coach Steamboat girls this season

Steamboat Springs coach John Aragon talks with his players at the 4A Colorado State High School Tennis Championships at Pueblo City Park.

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — After nearly two decades with Steamboat Springs High School tennis programs, head coach John Aragon has announced that he is stepping down just weeks before the start of girls spring season.

"I'm going to miss the relationships that you build when you are coaching athletes," Aragon said. "It's not what you do when you are on the court, it's what you do when you are off the court. It's who your are as person, how you contribute to your community or do your job. I will miss that bond you have when you are in competition, and I will miss being able to relate to them in tough situations and figuring out how to move forward from there.

“Whether you win or lose, the end result is not a win or a loss — it's how competitive you are, and the honor that you had while you did that. If you don't win, you shake hands and feel good about yourself."

That's a lesson that Aragon always tried to pass along to the student athletes he coached at Steamboat Springs, at Eaton High School — where he started both the boys and girls programs — and at University High School Greeley.

Aragon will leave a legacy behind him as he walks off the court of coaching. He coached the Steamboat boys team from 1998 until 2012, and has been with the girls team from 2001 until the end of last season. In that time, the Steamboat boys won 13 regional titles, and the girls matched that effort. Aragon said he had planned to coach this year, but after spending some time with his family during the holidays, he feels now is the time.

"I feel good about my decision," Aragon said. "I have grandkids now, and after spending Christmas with my family, and talking to them, I decided that the timing was right."

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The announcement rounds out a noteworthy career for Aragon, who was also an assistant coach at the University of Northern Colorado and taught at the Tennis Center at Steamboat Springs for years.

"For me, it is somewhat of a sad day to see him retire, as he is a legend to our family,” said parent Marci Valicenti. "I'm just thankful that our children were very fortunate to train under him, and  they certainly thrived under his leadership. John's athletes knew that they could contact him if they needed him and many of those athletes that are now adults still keep in touch with him to this day. "

Before coming to Steamboat, Aragon worked as the head tennis professional at the Greeley Country Club — a position that he held until moving to Steamboat Springs in 1997. It didn't take him long to make an impact in our mountain community, first at Soroco High School, where he coached the wrestling team, and then in Steamboat as the head tennis coach. He also worked as the head baseball coach for a couple of years.

As the head tennis coach of the boys team, Aragon helped the Sailors win 13 consecutive regional titles and his team placed third at the 4A Colorado State High School Tennis Championships in his first year, and then again in 2007.

Players earned top honors as well, with Ramsay Bernard bringing home state championships at No. 3 singles as a freshman and No. 1 singles as a senior. Other state placers included Rich Tifft, Ryan McNamara, John Aragon Jr., Brian Burger, Brian Aragon, Patrick Ayres, Jonathon Soloman, Jeff Aragon, Joe Cutler, Walker Pruett, David Upbin, Jesse Schaller, Dylan Roberts, Taylor Reed, Nick Ludoph, Danny Martin, Matt Mooney, Brian Behrman, Scott Peterson, Charlie Smith, Alex Gibbs, Zach Valicenti, Ben Paley and Casey Claggett. 

The Sailors placed fourth as a team in 2004, 2005 and 2006, and were  fifth in 1999, 2000 and 2003. Aragon stepped down from the boys team in 2012.

As the head coach of the girls team, Aragon won 13 consecutive titles. Aragon coached state champions Molly Weiss and Tatum Burger in singles, and Kylee Swiggart and Sara Bearss in doubles title. Last year Mae Thorp was second at No.1 singles and Maddie Thompson was third at No. 2.

Other State placers over the years included Breanne Murray, Shelby Reed, Lisa Floyd, Kristin Toy, Lauren Siegel, Rachelle Grubbs and Alli Lowrie.  In 2008, the girls team placed fourth at the state championships as a team. Twice his boys team won the state sportsmanship award and the girls brought home the title once.

"It's hard to pick out one moment," Aragon said of his favorite memory. "The biggest thing is when you are in tournaments, or fighting for a state title, and there is pressure on both ends. Just seeing these individuals start to believe in themselves, and believe that they can do it. You can see it in their eyes, and the way they start to hit the ball — and you know, wow, for them to get beat in this thing, the other player is going to have to play well."

Steamboat Springs Athletic Director Luke DeWolfe said the search for a new coach has already begun and that the position will be filled as soon as possible. On Wednesday, he said the position has been posted and that he expects the process will move quickly. The spring season is set to start at the end of April.

To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email jrussell@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966.