WAELDER — Head girls’ coach Martha Zuniga has been named Waelder ISD’s athletic director, effective immediately. The move comes two years after taking the job as the head coach for volleyball, girls’ basketball and other girls’ athletics in 2016.
“Coach Zuniga is dedicated to the community and to the kids of Waelder,” Waelder Superintendent John Orozco said of the newly named athletic director. “I think you see that when you meet her.”
“Her attention to detail is something that is very important,” he continued. “I think one of the biggest things is working with our kids to have personal pride, integrity in our athletic program. The other thing is communicating with not only kids in a positive way, but doing it with respect and dignity.”
Orozco explained that as an administrator, he wanted to make sure he was observing the program and making calculated decisions instead of jumping in without a plan, hence why it took until late March to make the move. Zuniga’s actions throughout the year proved to the superintendent that indeed she’s the right person for the job.
“I have 110 percent confidence in her,” Orozco said. “She understands the vision that I see, having quality athletes doing quality things not only on the court but in the community. Her leadership is going to get us there.”
“I think I was more excited to share it with the girls because I try to share a big example for all the athletic girls and the thing they can achieve as a female,” Zuniga said of the recent promotion.
Zuniga has been a vital part of an effort to bring Waelder girls’ athletics back on the level as boys’ athletics. The Wildcats boys basketball team has always had the respect of multiple organizations, making the top 25 state rankings year-after-year. Unfortunately, the Lady Cats have been in the shadows of their counterparts. Zuniga wants to change that.
“Everywhere I look, it’s mainly a male AD. Prior to me coming here, it was a male AD. I try to teach the girls, they have the ability to reach greatness too.”
In the two years Zuniga has been at the program, the volleyball and basketball teams have grown, adding a junior varsity squad to the fall. This upcoming year, Zuniga believes she’ll have the numbers for a freshman, junior varsity and varsity team for volleyball. Girls basketball will include a large freshmen class, according to the athletic director.
“Male or female, you can accomplish what you put your mind to,” Zuniga said. “If you believe in yourself, you can do it.”
Now named athletic director, Zuniga has ambitious goals for the Wildcat program. Other than trying to get every sport up to speed with the boys’ basketball team, the newly named AD wants to bump up participation, adding a junior varsity team to every sport and increasing her numbers in track and field or cross country during the fall.
“We’ve talked about starting a soccer program, boys and girls,” Zuniga announced. “We got pretty big interest in that.”
Eventually, Zuniga wants to go back to her roots and start a softball program, a sport she is very much familiar with. But that sport wouldn’t come for another few years.
“I think the girls would do great in that position,” Zuniga said.
Baseball was also talked about, though that all depends on the coaching staff and whether they’d be able to support the sport.
Although no official word has been given, there have been discussions on job duties, including which sports Zuniga would be able to head coach as well as handle the administrative duties of an athletic director. Depending on how the coaching staff changes, whether Waelder decides to add coaches or not, there is a chance Zuniga would have to hire a girls’ head basketball coach while she takes care of volleyball in the fall.
“We’re going to be seeing some changes in the coaching staff,” Orozco said. “We’ve been visiting about that. She led us to our first district championship in 20 years, which we’re super excited about.”
“Basketball season in my viewpoint, it seemed to be a little bit more hectic and busy,” he continued. “[Zuniga] would love to coach everything and I think that’s been the biggest struggle for her because she loves the kids so much and loves being with them so much but I think as we have conversations here in the next six weeks, we’ll make some final decisions and see what she’ll have to give up.”