On Friday, April 8, 2022, at the intersection Easy St. and Laredo St. in front of Lytle ISD’s Walter H. Joyce, Jr. Stadium, a crowd of more than 100 people gathered to honor and celebrate two Lytle ISD coaches, Hadley Foster and Gilbert Ruiz.
In a brief ceremony, the City of Lytle renamed Easy Street, to now be called Foster-Ruiz Way. City Council Alderman Charles Cate opened the ceremony by sharing his experiences and admiration for the two men. Lytle Senior, Jose Cortez spoke at the ceremony, saying, “I met Coach Ruiz in 2013 when the Lytle Boys won the state championship. I was nine years old and Coach asked me if I was going to run for him. I told him I would if he was still around. Now as a senior, I am so happy to have spent the last six years running on his teams. In my mind, Coach Ruiz stuck it out through difficult times just for me.” Fellow coach and long time friend, Bryan Bippert spoke of both coaches saying, “These two believe in what they do, which exudes confidence and courage in their runners.” Former athlete, Kyle Boehme told the crowd, “My relationship with Coach Ruiz aligned with my upbringing. Much like my mother’s approach to parenting, he coached us with strong discipline, accountability for our actions, and love.” Former Lytle coworker, JJ Perez spoke of the highest level of work ethic, “In our lives we will encounter only a handful of people who work so hard and so passionately. Today we honor two of them, Hadley Foster and Gilbert Ruiz.” Lytle Athletic Director Lori Wilson spoke about many years of successes that have made history for the Lytle school district and Lytle Mayor Ruben Gonzalez read proclamations which acknowledged the renaming of the street and also made April 8 a day to annually celebrate the two coaches. Prior to the ceremony, both coaches carved out some time to reflect on their lives and this honor, and their stories are featured here.
Coach Hadley Foster began his education at Ridgeview Elementary. In fact, he can still sing the school song, “Ridgeview Elementary is the greatest school of all, that’s where we all long to go when autumn leaves begin to fall.” He attended Nimitz Middle school where he was coached by Charlie Simon. At Robert E. Lee High School he played football and was tutored in the sport by a group of coaches who inspired him. Coach Roy Sawyer, Coach Martin Shaunaghessy, Coach Jim Fleener, Coach Stan Smith and Coach Inez Perez all laid the groundwork for Hadley to one day be a coach himself.
After graduating from Texas A&M University with a bachelor’s degree in Entomology he was commissioned in the Army as a second lieutenant. He served for ten years as an aviation officer/UH-60 Blackhawk pilot, completing tours in Korea, Fort Rucker, Germany and Desert Storm.
After the military, Foster was hired as an Alternative Teacher Certification candidate by Lytle ISD three days before school started. He taught four years of second grade, three years of first grade and five-and-a-half years of Kindergarten. While a kindergarten teacher, his son’s seventh grade football team had just one coach. So, Foster asked Coach Bryan Bippert if he could help during practice…which led to helping during basketball season…which led to helping with track season. He wouldn’t shake the coaching bug. Bippert hired him in 2002 and he’s been called “Coach” ever since.
Foster attended his first Cross Country meet when his oldest son ran varsity. Noticing only one Junior High runner at that meet inspired him to tell Coach Ruiz that he would be his Junior High Cross Country coach. In 2005 he coached Junior High boys athletics and Junior High Cross Country. In the years that followed, he would drive more and more Lytle Cross Country runners all around the state of Texas. In 2008, he transitioned to working in the girls’ side of the athletic period.
Coach Foster’s memories are not just filled with the best and fastest runners, he holds fond memories of runners who never quit. Foster says, “Each of my runners made me the coach I am today. Abby Bueno finished last in 2018, but because she never quit, the eighth grade girls team finished district in second place. Noah Smoot told me he couldn’t run Cross Country, yet later showed up to run. He ended his seventh grade season as the last runner to finish the race, but in eighth grade he finished the race a top ten runner in seventh place. Wyatt Conover never placed high but he never missed a practice and finished two seasons. He still shares fond memories and takes great pride in running on the team.”
Foster explains that he and Ruiz are good together because he feels challenged by Ruiz who sets the bar high when it comes to hard work. “It has been a great honor to be Coach Ruiz’s assistant,” Foster adds, “And now it’s the two of us honored together. To have our Mayor, Ruben Gonzalez, a distinguished veteran, husband and father acknowledge our efforts is a pure treasure. Since the street runs next to Walter Joyce stadium, that makes me smile because of who Walter Joyce was and all he stood for. In life, I’ve just tried to run the race with endurance and love those who joined the course along the way. That means this honor is not for me but for all those who have supported me. People like William Cross and Joseph Arguello, and a few who have finished their race but helped make me who I am like Bobby McConathy and Randy Ewing.
When asked about his life’s successes, Foster gets philosophical, which is a familiar, easy, wise-and-trusted-advisor role he fills for many who know him. “Success is an interesting word,” he explains, “If you are successful one time is that success? Success to me is a never-accomplished word. At three-score-and-one, there is only one thing that will satisfy my idea of success – when I hear the Master say, ‘Well done my good and faithful servant, enter into your rest.’ I have a long list of highlights in my mind, but my focus has been to maintain and raise the standard of excellence on the path to success.”
Coach Gilbert Ruiz was raised by his mother who attended Lytle ISD and his father who attended school in Floresville. He attended Medina Valley ISD, graduated in the top ten – ninth out of 99 in his class. He went on to earn his bachelor’s degree from Texas A&M with a major in Kinesiology, graduating with Magna Cum Laude honors.
Ruiz grew up enjoying sports so he thought a job in teaching and coaching was the route to take in his adult life. So many at Lytle ISD are thrilled that he made that decision. There is a long list of Lytle students who have experienced major successes – created once-in-a-lifetime memories – thanks to Coach Ruiz’ commitment to guiding and pushing them to find their best self within the classroom and their athletic venues. Ruiz is not one to boast about his professional accomplishments, however, they are extraordinary and need no elaboration. When asked about milestones, Ruiz quickly lists off the highest level facts that are significant enough to go down in the history books for the Lytle School District. Says Ruiz, “2006 was the first time I was able to take a runner, Andrew Massey, to a UIL State competition. The event was the track 400 meter run. Andrew opened the door for the rest of our students to see this level of competition as a reality. In Cross Country, Jeremy Juarez was the first medalist at state competition. Watching him and his family celebrate changed things in a big way for me. In 2013, we had our first Boys State Championship team. This is a rare thing. To be able to say you were the best in the state is an accomplishment only a few get to realize. And, just this past year, I was able to take both boys and girls to state competition. Only four schools in the whole state of Texas – no matter how big or small – did better than our program. Those are just the facts.”
Coaching kids to love running is not an easy task, but Ruiz takes on even more. In the classroom, he has helped hundreds, even thousands of students achieve what they thought was impossible – high school math. He’s likely heard the words, “I can’t do math,” a million times, and yet nearly all of his students who struggle achieve growth because of his ‘no excuses’ approach to learning.
Coach Gilbert Ruiz has been a part of the Lytle Pirate Staff for the past 26 years. He shares that he never really had one mentor, but he has learned important qualities from several different people. Says Ruiz, “My dad never missed work and that taught me to show up every day. My coaching style models certain qualities from my own high school coaches, especially Coach Carl Blakemore and Coach Jay Patterson and the way they managed their classrooms. Coach George Black inspired techniques that I use to coach runners.”
When asked how he feels about having a street named after him in Lytle, Texas, Ruiz says, “I am not the type of person who is looking to draw attention to myself – especially things like this. It does make me feel good that people believe I have made a difference in the time I have been here. It’s good to feel that I took something and left it better than what it was before. I’ve been lucky to have not only kids who wanted to reach their potential but also administrators who allowed me to do what I needed to do and get these kids to a different level.” In typical Ruiz style, he downplays the spotlight with a grin saying, “And, really, I think this also means I have been here a really long time.”
Athletic Director Lori Wilson, summed it up in her speech at the ceremony saying, “If you know these two, you also know this: It is simple, good, and so appropriate that both names – Ruiz and Foster – will now grace an intersection in Lytle to serve as a guide to all who will travel through our district for many, many years to come. Pirate pride!”
By Lorrianne Migura
Lytle ISD PR Director