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Cathi Aradi

Cal JC Coach Ella Vilche a Well-Rounded Success

Ella Vilche (pronounced vil-chee) can sit in her office at Chabot College and tell you how she enjoys teaching her kids the basic fundamentals of sport and life. Or you can head out to the softball or soccer field and see the onetime Chabot athlete showing you exactly how she can make a difference - coaching!

Vilche is in her seventh season as the head softball coach at Chabot College and assumed the position of head soccer coach last fall. It was 15 years ago that Vilche first stepped onto the campus of Chabot College and she hasn't looked back since.

Vilche was a three-sport athlete in volleyball, basketball and softball while attending Chabot. She was a stand-out athlete in all three, but as a player on the 1982 softball team, she was a member of the Fastpitch "A" national championship.

The accomplishments were just beginning for Vilche as she found herself pitching for some very good softball teams.

First on the list was attending Fresno State on a softball scholarship. After spending two years with the Bulldogs and finishing runner-up in the NCAA Division I Women's College World Series in 1982, Vilche stepped into the national scene.

Playing with some of the best players in the world, she was part of a team that earned a gold medal in the 1985 Sports Festival behind her outstanding pitching of 57 scoreless innings. Vilche then went on to earn the most valuable player in the Canadian World Cup in 1986 and her team captured a silver medal at the Japan Cup. Nineteen eighty-seven and 1988 were even more exciting for her as she was a member of the Pan American team that won a gold medal and joined the international team to play in China.

Besides playing some of the best competition in the world, Vilche had some valuable experiences that she continues to appreciate today.

"I had some great opportunities as a player," said Vilche. "The all-star team in Japan had some of the best players in the country. It was exciting to play in all those places - I had to deal with a lot of people and situations, and it has really helped with many aspects of coaching.

"After being in China and Japan, it really made you appreciate what we had here in the United States. Women in those countries have not come quite as far as we have. The women were not equal to men."

After her playing days came to an end, Vilche took up coaching. She started out with just one sport and recently took over a second.

"The most time-consuming part about coaching soccer and softball isrecruiting," said Vilche. "The sports are in different seasons, but recruiting for both can be very challenging."

Vilche has found that doing a lot of clinics in the community has lead many softball recruits to Chabot. She invests a lot of time into the community and in turn, the players attend Chabot. "I think at least 90 percent of my players have been to the clinics, and it is very helpful," said Vilche. "It is hard to get out and watch high school players when we are playing at the same time. I like to use the clinics as a way to get to know the potential recruits and for them to see the facilities."

Vilche also admits that her national and collegiate playing experience has made it easier talking to recruits about college life and playing a sport.

"The players and the parents know I am just not blowing smoke at them. I have been there and done that so I can say this is how it is here at Chabot."

The way it's done is winning the last three Coast Conference championships with the 1995 team going 45-6 and finishing as the No. 1-ranked team in Northern California and the No. 4-ranked Cal JC in the state. One of Vilche's memorable coaching memories is watching the 1995 team start out the season 25-0.

"I still have players that talk about going 25-0, because it is so hard to do. We had so many one-run or extra inning games that we could have lost but we didn't," said Vilche. "We just all wonder how in the world we did that?"

Vilche also expresses to recruits and to players that academics are very important and through her teams, she can show just how important and how seriously her teams take it.

The 1997 softball team was honored by the National Fastpitch Coaches Association as the No. 1 Community College academic team in the country. The 1996 and 1997 teams were also chosen to receive the state scholastic team award.

To win the award, the team must have excelled academically with 3.0 or above grade point average, demonstrated better than average accomplishments in intercollegiate athletic competition; and received strong recommendations from college personnel.

If that isn't enough, the 1996 and 1997 teams have also had 100 percent graduation rate. "My No. 1 priority with recruits is emphasizing academics and with the success of our teams in the classroom, recruits know I am just not saying that," said Vilche. "The pride continues with conference championships and staying academically on top.

"They buy into the 100 percent graduation rate and want to continue the pride that we do have. We get good students out of high school and give them the support to do well here."

With the support of their coach, on and off the field, Chabot College student-athletes are getting a well-rounded education. Vilche teaches them how important academics will be in their future and the success they can have at all points in their lives.

"I have been around a lot of coaches and some very good coaches, and Ella is as good as anyone I have ever seen," said Ken Grace, Chabot College athletic director. "She can take a young woman or man and develop them so well, and then she can jump to the collegiate level and do the same things with her players. She has a great ability to relate to anyone and teach.

"Ella is the kind of person you can ask anything and she will do it. She doesn't ask why, she just asks how can we get this done and what is the best way?"

Ella Vilche knows what it takes to be a good athlete, student and person. She could sit and tell you in her office, but she would rather show you out on the diamond.