A lot of people have asked Martin Quiroga "Why?"
He answers with a question: "Why not?"
After taking a year off from being St. Francis de Sales head football coach, Quiroga has returned to a program that he revived a few years ago. By reviving it, I mean he brought the program back to varsity status after it spent two seasons playing just junior varsity ball.
The Pioneers were 2-7 in 2010 and 1-8 last year under Wendell Walton. Quiroga was an assistant coach at Morgan Park last year, but when Walton stepped down because of his job duties, Quiroga was asked back by athletic director Rich Maggio.
"I want to come back and finish what we started," Quiroga said. "It will not be easy and I tell the kids that. I think we can be competitive through hard work, but it will also be a tough and bumpy road."
That is putting it mildly. There are less than 20 kids in summer camp, but he hopes to add some freshmen and some late-comers when school opens in August. It would have been easy for Quiroga to not take on this assignment or task, but he loves a challenge, and that he has.
"A lot of it is getting the kids, the parents to buy into your concepts," Quiroga said. "That is tough when you haven't won, but we started this a few years ago and the kids we have out are willing to work."
One plus is the support of principal Mary Kay Ramirez and athletic director Rich Maggio, who is also an assistant coach.
"Richie has been great," Quiroga said. "The administration is behind us and that means a lot. I think they know we may not win a lot of games, but they want to see progress."
Some talked of not playing varsity ball again, but that would have ended the program. St. Francis can't expect to be a small-school power, but it can build itself up to be respectable first, then maybe make the playoffs and build from there.
If a few kids want to play football, that is extra bodies in the desks, paying tuition. That is what Quiroga and his staff have to preach.
St. Francis de Sales is not Mount Carmel or St. Rita, but with the hard work Quiroga and his staff are willing to put in, the Pioneers could build a good reputation among small schools.
The Pioneers practice at Calumet Park and play their home games across the state line at Hammond Clark's High School field. Quiroga said the schedule is still being finalized, but the Pioneers travel to Arthur-Lovington, which is near Decatur for their opener. They play East Side rival Washington in Week 2.
"Part of what we are doing is laying the ground work for the future," Quiroga said. "We think we can build a program."
Quiroga should have some success, but like Rome, it won't be built in a day or one season.
This column is solely the writer's opinion. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.