When an athlete is a coach’s kid, his actual coaches may not have to work quite as hard.
Maybe it’s because he’s been coached since birth.
“I sort of get a one-up when I come to compete here,” Matador hurdler Diego Hernandez said on Wednesday. “The coaches tell me something, and I tell them, ‘I kind of already heard it at home.’
“He (his dad, Dan) teaches me a lot of life’s lessons, basically everything that I’ve learned is from him. Growing up as a coach’s kid — it’s a privilege and a blessing in disguise.”
Hernandez, a senior, committed on Wednesday morning to run track for Tarleton State in Stephenville.
“Nobody knows what it’s like to be a coach’s kid,” Seguin athletic director Travis Bush said when introducing Hernandez at Wednesday’s signing ceremony. “You’re having to change schools, meet new friends and are constantly having to prove yourself over and over again.”
Dan Hernandez is semi-retired now, but was primarily a football and track coach in Bastrop and then came in as the athletic director in Seguin. While he did not coach Diego specifically on his teams, there was always the father, son, coach relationship at home.
“It’s always special to have that bond,” Bush, whose father is a retired coach, said. “You’ve been coached by that man for 18 years. I’m 43 years-old and I’m still getting coached by my father every day, he’s going to be on your tail the rest of your life, but I know you wouldn’t want it any other way.”
The coaching at home was going on throughout Diego’s senior season at Seguin.
“This year we tried to work on his mental preparation, to make sure he was always prepared,” the elder Hernandez said. “Track is a tough sport, so my having some experience in working with track kids, knowing that he’s going to be hitting a wall at certain times, I know he’s going to have to fight through those things.”
Seguin track coach Jonathon Nance noted that Diego was extraordinarily coachable.
“Diego is the kind of athlete that makes coaching fun, makes it easy,” Nance said. “He never complained, did everything full speed and wanted to get better.”
Assistant football coach and track coach Brandon La Porte worked with Diego on the hurdles this year.
“He was one of those kids that was naturally gifted at the hurdles,” La Porte said. “Hurdles are very technical, getting those little things cleaned up week-to-week, he always embraced that and sent me videos of him working on the weekend, trying to clean up the stuff we knew we needed to clean up. That only made him faster throughout the season.”
Hernandez took that coaching all the way to the regional final after winning at the district and area meets. He missed qualifying for the state meet by just two spots, finishing fourth in the 110-meter hurdles in a personal best time of 14.93.
“It was a fast race,” La Porte said. “He competed his tail off and ended up running a PR, that’s all you can ask for as a coach.”
Diego came back for his best season in the hurdles after a severe ankle injury his junior year while playing football for the Matadors — an injury that sidelined him for a full year.
“I missed my whole junior year and the offseason,” Diego said. “It’s been a lot of work since last summer, going to therapy every single day, and then after that it was Mat camp to strengthen my ankle, but it all paid off my senior year.”
Diego had planned on going to Texas Tech in Lubbock, but changed his mind after being contacted by coaches at Tarleton, one of whom is former TLU coach Clay Holland. A visit to the school on Monday sealed the deal.
“Coach Holland is from this area,” Dan said. “He knows some of the area coaches, and that association there got Diego in the mix. We went for a visit, he liked Tarleton and coach Holland liked him, so it’s a win-win.”
Diego will have preferred walk-on status on the team, with hopes of getting a scholarship down the road.
“I was planning on walking on at Tech, but I probably would be just a number there, so I think that Tarleton is a better fit for me,” he said. “The head coach at Tarleton told me they have a lot of preferred walk-ons there that end up getting on scholarship because of their accomplishments.”
While dad is footing the bill for the first semester, “we hope we can take care of that by the spring,” Dan said.
Kevin Duke is the sports editor of the Seguin Gazette. You can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.