BELEN — In the words of Eminem, “Guess who’s back, back again?”

After a year hiatus, Steven Contreras is returning as athletic coordinator for Belen Consolidated Schools.

Steven Contreras

Contreras, who will take up his old position in July, said he is glad to be back. When he was hired as coordinator the first time in 2017, Contreras referred to the position as a “dream job,” a descriptor he says is still true.

“I am glad to be back and just want to see all of our programs excel,” Contreras said.

With 29 years in education — 25 of them as a teacher and coach for both BCS and Los Lunas Schools — Contreras has always focused on the “student” part of student athlete. As the athletic coordinator for the district, his influence on student attendance and academics comes down to diligent communication with coaches.

“We have to check grades and keep up with attendance. A lot of coaches put an emphasis on academics,” he said. “We really want our kids in the athletic programs to take what they learn in athletics on into life — good sportsmanship, personal integrity, everything they learn in the classroom and on the athletic field as well.”

Contreras has had a life-long love of sports, playing Little League baseball and YAFL in his younger years, and going on to play football and baseball for Belen High School, from which he graduated in 1987.

He graduated from Highlands University, where he studied education. After graduation, he and his wife attended a job fair and both were offered contracts on the spot to teach in Omaha, Neb. A year in the Midwest and their birth of their first child, the couple wanted to be closer to home and returned to Valencia County.

Contreras spent several years with Los Lunas Schools before returning home to BHS in 2007, where he taught and coached baseball for 10 years before taking the athletic coordinator position.

“I enjoyed working with the kids,” he said. “It was really special when I was out and about and I would run into a player I’d coached or student I’d had. That makes it all worth while.”

Contreras left the district in 2021 due to a change in state policy in terms of public education employees’ ability to get a health care subsidy unless they retired as soon as they were able.

“I got caught up in that; I wasn’t sure I wanted to retire,” he said. “I didn’t expect the position to reopen.”

In May, BCS athletic coordinator Josh Griñe announced he was moving on to be St. Michael’s High School in Santa Fe’s athletic director after a year with BCS.

Coming back to his “dream job,” is something Contreras is excited about and feels right, he said.

“Being from the community, I want to see all our programs excel,” he said. “As coordinator, I’m able to get to see a little more of other programs that I hadn’t always been able to see when I was coaching.”

As athletic coordinator, Contreras is charged with making sure all BCS coaches are licensed and able to supervise students, as well as coordinate with schools within Belen’s athletic district to build schedules for every team, as well as communicate and coordinate with a large variety of district employees and administrators.

“A tremendous amount of communication takes place. I have to be able to establish positive relationships with custodians for athletic facilities, the maintenance department and with coaches, parents and athletes.

“A big part of the job is scheduling games, so I need to coordinate with transportation and officials, make sure student athletes are academically eligible and make sure the whole department puts emphasis on the student part of student athlete.”

Contreras emphasized his job was by no means a one-man effort.

“It’s a team — our athletic trainer and athletic secretary, high school principal and superintendent,” he said. “When I start, I have to go in and make a point to meet with everybody and see where things are right now. From there, we come up with the direction we want to head.

“Our coaches are experts in their program, so I have to make sure I’m there to guide and support them in any way I can.”

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Julia M. Dendinger began working at the VCNB in 2006. She covers Valencia County government, Belen Consolidated Schools and the village of Bosque Farms. She is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists Rio Grande chapter’s board of directors.