It’s Tuesday afternoon of rivalry week and Aaron Solis is busy making sure everything is in order for a slate of basketball games at the San Marcos High Thunderhut for the next couple of days
Solis is meticulous in the set-up. He shows a student where the floor mats for the team benches line up on the floor. As the chairs for the players and coaches are set up, he makes sure they’re spaced just right.
Later that night, he’s seated on the San Marcos bench, assisting head coach Chris Hantgin with the varsity girls team against Santa Barbara. For Wednesday night’s boys game, Solis is doing the public address announcing and playing DJ. And he’s keeping an eagle eye on the huge crowd. He spots a Santa Barbara student messing around with a megaphone and alerts the SBHS athletic director, who confiscates it.
The work is thankless, but to Solis it’s not work. He loves being involved in sports, especially basketball. He’ll do everything in his power to make sure the game is a great experience for the players, coaches and fans.
SPORTS FIGURE OF THE MONTH
Each Month, Presidio Sports recognizes a local sports figure
for their extraordinary contribution to the Santa Barbara
athletic community. It is our way to recognize those who
are making a lasting impact in our sports community,
whether it is an inspirational athletic performance,
a lifetime achievement award, or perhaps a great
example of leadership.
Presidio Sports is pleased to recognize Solis as the Sports Figure of the Month.
Solis has been a fixture at San Marcos for 25 years. He broke into high school coaching with the frosh-soph girls basketball team in 1991-92 while he was still a student at UCSB. He started teaching at San Marcos in 1998.
“At UCSB, I started coaching in the Goleta Youth Basketball Association before the Page Center,” Solis recalled. “My first team had a 9-year-old named Bradlee Van Pelt on it. (Van Pelt is one of the greatest athletes in San Marcos history). That was a lot of fun. I wanted something fun to do and do community service while I was at UCSB. I was coaching GYBA for three years and (former San Marcos girls basketball coach) Ken Nedler got a hold of me and got me to coach frosh-soph here.”
So began his career as a Royal.
His coaching resume at the school: the first girls varsity golf coach, 1999; girls varsity basketball coach, 2000 through 2004 and again in 2006; boys JV golf coach, 2000-01; boys varsity golf coach, 2002-07, winning back-to-back CIF-Southern Section championships in 2002-03, returning to the helm in 2014.
Solis’ two golf titles were part of a section three-peat at San Marcos. Ken Uchio won the first one in 2001.
“I feel blessed to have the last two-thirds of that run,” he said. “For us winning three in a row like that, I still think that’s one of the greatest runs of any team in our area.
“I joke I drove them to victory. Yay, I made sure I got them to the first tee on time.”
Through golf, Solis learned about the mental side of coaching. He credits Jim Ley of Twin Lakes Golf Center and former area resident and standout athlete Ben Heidger for educating him.
Solis says he soaks up coaching ideas all the time and keeps a journal of the valuable information. His entries include pointers from Santa Barbara’s girls basketball coach Andrew Butcher, former San Marcos girls basketball coach Ken Nedler, former DP girls coach Rob Schiff and San Marcos football coach Anthony Linebaugh.
“I’ll listen to them and say, ‘Oh, my gosh, that’s good. I have to put that in my mental notebook; I keep a journal at home. You pick up stuff from everywhere.”
Solis picked up the ball to help direct Santa Barbara’s girls basketball Tournament of Champions in 2000. The event is one of the premier tournaments in the state.
“Andrew (Butcher) asked me to help run the tournament,” he said. They had been friends for several years, so Solis did not hesitate to offer his time and assistance.
“That guy is helping everyone he can. I thought somebody’s got to help him once in a while,” he said.
Butcher knew the tournament was in good hands with Solis.
“He’s the first we call with any problem, CIF questions, gym scheduling, player and parent issues,” Butcher said. “He’s helped out all the local high schools over the years as well as his projects at San Marcos. He coached with me one summer and was fantastic, full of enthusiasm. Our players related to him much more than myself. He is a great contributor to the community, a fountain of wisdom.”
The tournament runs during the school holiday break, but for Solis the four-day event is a holiday treat.
“It’s labor of love,” he said. “I go out and try to get the teams, I organize the brackets, help get the gym sites. We co-direct because it’s Santa Barbara High’s tournament.
“You get worn out, but it’s hoops. It’s a lot of fun.”
Solis also co-directs the Gold Coast Tournament with Rio Mesa High.
Solis is all about helping the local sports community. He’s done timekeeping at Dos Pueblos football games and he officiates high school basketball.
“It’s such a great community,” he said. “I am San Marcos through and through, definitely. But we have three great high schools here. Just the community aspect with the three high schools is amazing. It’s been amazing to be here.”
San Marcos Principal Ed Behrens appreciates Solis’ work ethic, dedication and value to the school.
“He wears many hats and pitches in wherever needed,” Behrens said. “As Activities Director, he has helped establish a wonderful school climate by encouraging students to be creative and positive in our cheering section, including having students wear red on Friday. He has successfully implemented Link Crew, which is an outstanding freshman orientation program that helps 9th grade students feel valued and part of the school culture as soon as they arrive. He is part of the school leadership team and always contributes positively to any topic being discussed. We really value his perspective and appreciate his attention to detail on calendar items.”
Said Athletic Director Abe Jahadhmy: “Aaron is a loyal Royal. He will do anything he can to help anyone out at our school, especially the students. I use him a lot in getting insight on a lot of things.”
Solis does work for the CIF-Southern Section as a member of the organization’s golf advisory committee. He runs or assists championship tournaments in the area. He’s also on the CIF-SS Activities Director Advisory Committee.
Solis always loved sports (he’s a big USC football and L.A Kings hockey fan), but he wasn’t able to play when he was attending North Hollywood High. As a kid, he suffered from the bone disease Legg Calve-Perthes, where the femoral head in his right femur died because of a disruption of blood flow. He said from the 1st through 4th grades he wore casts on both legs, with two bars between them.
“Athletically, there was no way I was going to make a team. I couldn’t run and there’s no way I could jump,” Solis shared. “I was a team manager and did stats. I’ve always been involved. You learn, you learn, you learn.”
And the community has learned how valuable he is to the local high school sports scene.