Mount Martys Albert Fernandez Named GPAC Coach-of-Character
Albert Fernandez, the head softball coach at Mount Marty College in Yankton, South Dakota, is the 2013-14 Great Plains Athletic [News Photo] Conference Coach-of-Character winner. Fernandez will be the GPAC nominee to the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) for the NAIA National Coach-of-Character Award which will be awarded at the NAIA National Convention in Kansas City next April.
Fernandez has been the softball coach at his alma mater for nine seasons. He is a 1997 graduate of Mount Marty where he played baseball and basketball for the Lancers. In 2013 he was named the GPAC Co-Softball Coach-of-the-Year. He was also GPAC Softball Coach-of-the-Year in 2011.
In the fall of 2012 Fernandez was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer. He underwent treatment in Texas and made a return to coaching for the 2013 spring softball season. Mount Marty Baseball Coach Andy Bernatow said, "A person's character is judged during hard times and Albert proved to everyone to be a person of character and integrity." Junior softball player Lauren Orwig stated, "I think we (the team) took his diagnosis harder than he did, he never asked 'why me?' and his demonstration of unwavering faith not only strengthened his faith, but also ours." Orwig added, "one of the first thing coach said when we walked into his hospital room to see him was 'how are you guys going to eat? You are missing dinner in the cafeteria.' Not even six hours earlier coach was given his shocking news (of having stage four cancer) and his focus was on the team and whether or not we would have dinner." "It was at that time I realized he was going to focus on others, when everyone wanted to focus on him."
"Albert is a true leader," stated Mount Marty Athletics Director Chuck Iverson. "With him being a Mount Marty graduate (1997) he knows, understands, and carries out the mission of our school. He is a mentor to our coaching staff and does things the right way." Iverson added, "when I think of Albert I think of a coach who is more concerned if a player would do something wrong off the field than on the field, it's that genuine care and compassion that, to me, makes him a true Coach of Character."
Numerous GPAC schools assisted in his recovery efforts last year, including many schools doing pass the hat benefits for him, and cancer research, when their school played Mount Marty in various sports. "I was so impressed at our conference schools and coaches for what they did for Albert last year," stated Chuck Iverson. "This conference is about character and the league embodies the NAIA Champions of Character initiative. I saw that time and time again when it came to Albert's battle and recovery last year."
"Our coaching staff uses one word quite often to help our players in every aspect of their college life and that word is accountability," said Fernandez when asked about the significance of character. "We ask them to hold themselves accountable for their decisions on the field, in the classroom, and in life. Their ability to not make excuses and accept responsibility helps them build individual character which will lead them to be a successful adult after graduation."
"When Albert was diagnosed, the prognosis was not good," said Chuck Iverson, "It was obvious it was hard on the girls, but at no time did I ever see it affect the way he coached the game or handled the team. He would never use this as some sort of motivation, but rather as a teaching aide." Iverson added, "While he never bring up the battle he as having, he demonstrated the fight, the perseverance, and attitude that person needs to win any battle – whether that be a softball game or a battle with cancer."