New "Coach" Cairo inspires SCC teams
"I was a shrimp," says strength and conditioning coach Joe Cairo, in between occasional handshakes and backslaps from SCC Men's Basketball players arriving to begin practice in the gym lobby last Tuesday afternoon.
"But I could run."
And run he could; in 1964 as a senior in high school in Long Beach, California, Cairo ran a 4:20 mile which he discreetly describes as "pretty fast" for that time period. Scholarships were offered, but Cairo ended up attending a junior college because of the great feeder program the school had available.
Cairo had discovered a sport where his smaller stature would allow him to excel, but his plans quickly changed when he was drafted and stationed at the Fort Lewis military base in Washington. Like all new recruits, Cairo was subjected to Boot Camp -- the signature group training method of the American army.
Today, at age 65, he runs three times a week and describes his time spent in boot camp as playing a role in the way he goes about his job at SCC as the school's new athletic trainer. "Coach Cairo", as the players refer to him as, mentors all interested athletes in his "BEAST Camp" sessions and also works with both the men's and women's basketball teams to improve conditioning and overall fitness for their upcoming season which begins in Bellingham against Northwest Indian College on November 20 and November 22 respectively.
"At first they were kind of bewildered by it," said Cairo, referring to the much higher workload he has implemented on the men's team than they were subjected to in years past, "But once they realized my passion for it, it was kinda infectious and then they started seeing the benefits."
"One of the players comes up to me and says 'Coach, at the beginning of the year maybe four maybe five guys were dunkin' the ball, now there's eight or nine or ten guys dunkin' the ball.'"
While the physical workouts the players have undergone may seem the most likely reason for the improved vertical game, Cairo is also quick to point out the importance of the mental aspect as well.
"When you trust that the person next to you has put in the work and has sacrificed just as you did, you know that when the chips are down, they're gonna be there," says Cairo, who attributes much of what he knows about the psychological side of peak physical performance to things he has learned from his son when he was undergoing training for the US Navy SEALs.
Not unlike the SEALs, Cairo says speed and endurance will be key to the SCC Men's Basketball team's success in the coming season. He points out that teams will simply not be able to keep up unless they have been practicing at the same intensity long before the opening tip off of the first game.
"I'm building a high performance race car that I'm handing over to coach Turcott (SCC Men's Basketball Head Coach) to drive fast."
Time will tell whether this "race car" of a basketball team is able to stay on course, but as of now, it seems more than ready to out-pace the competition.
Ian Terry, Photo Editor