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New Steamboat Springs girls basketball coach is hoping to build inspiring program

New Steamboat Springs girls basketball coach George Ibarra runs his players through practice Monday at Steamboat Springs High School.
John F. Russell

— This may be George Ibarra’s first year as the head of the Steamboat Springs High School girls basketball program, but that doesn’t mean he’s new to youth sports in town.

“I’ve coached youth football, baseball and basketball programs,” Ibarra said. “I’m addicted to coaching.”

After being hired late this summer, Ibarra will step into a new role as head of the girls basketball program, which has been run by Mack Spitellie the past three seasons. Last year, the team finished 8-13 overall and 6-8 in the Western Slope League. The team was fourth in the final standings behind Palisade, Rifle and Eagle Valley but missed the playoffs after falling to Palisade in the district tournament.

But the new coach has no plans to dwell in the past, and he’s already focusing on how to make the team better this season. He said he will not measure success in terms of wins and losses but will base it on what the team can do on the court now and what it can do at the end of the season.

“I don’t want to get caught up with the W (the win) as we like to call it,” Ibarra said. “I want this team to be confident, I want this team to do the fundamental things it takes to win a basketball game, and I want this group believe in themselves and in their team.”

Ibarra said his drive to coach this team is fueled by a desire to make a difference, and while he admits to being competitive, he also understands there is more to being a head coach than just winning games.

His biggest goals are for his players to have fun playing the game and also acquire skills that will make them better in the classroom, better in the community and better people overall.

“I think one of the biggest challenges the program is facing is to get the girls to be more positive,” Ibarra said. “We want them to believe in themselves, and we want them to believe that finding success on the court is something that they can do.”

Ibarra, who owns Willowcreek Oxygen & Medical Supply, has lived in Steamboat Springs with his family for 20 years, and he has a son in the middle school and a daughter at the high school. She is not a part of the team, and Ibarra said his decision to coach was more about giving back to the community around him than having a child on the team,

“It’s not just about my kids,” Ibarra said. “It’s about the whole village. When they say it takes a village to raise our children, well, I agree.”

The team officially began practice last Friday, and Ibarra led a pre-season camp a couple of weeks ago. He said the players have been very positive and they are excited to get on the court this season.

His biggest surprise, so far, has been the response he has gotten from the community including parents, other coaches and former players and their families. Ibarra said the basketball community has rallied to support this team, and he appreciates that.

It’s been great for a coach who admits he doesn’t know everything.

The understanding of his own limits is one of the reasons he sought out the help of assistants like Lori Raper and Devin Borvansky to help him this season.

Raper played four seasons at Colorado State University and brings a wealth of experience to the court.

Borvansky is a Steamboat Springs High School graduate who was a big part of getting High Altitude Basketball camp off the ground, and he’s a highly regarded coach with youth basketball programs in Steamboat Springs.

The Steamboat girls basketball program is set to get back on the court for the 2016-17 season Monday night when they host the Soroco Rams in a scrimmage. The regular season begins Dec. 3 at the Roaring Fork tournament when the team faces Durango.

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


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