Photo by Martin Musialczyk
Caption: Left to Right: Co-head coach Raquel Chumpitaz-West, Co-head coach Mark West, and volleyball player Elizabeth Malmgren
By Sara Rutherford
Around 3:30 p.m. on most days, Mark West can be found playfully critiquing student-athletes and laughing with students while supervising the school’s fitness center. On this particular day West saunters into the weight room with a sheepish grin, moving toward a group of basketball players.
“Listen to this,” West says excitedly, looking more like a high school jock than the head coach he is. West then sings a few bars of a song rap he has made up for the basketball players.
For the students and staff who frequent the school’s athletic facilities this is a typical day in the weight room. Used to West’s playful persona, they may be surprised to learn that much of Shoreline community outside the gym doesn’t know Mark West. Coach West is Varsity Women’s Volleyball Coach.
And, although Coach West is a self-described “really shy person,” it’s clear the SCC gym is one place where he feels comfortable to break out of his shell. With 20 years at SCC and 19 of those coaching the Dolphin’s alongside his wife, former Olympian Raquel Chumpitaz-West, it is no wonder West feels at home at SCC.
“It really seems like he’s found his happiness in life,” says Dolphin’s basketball player and weight room regular William “Big Will” Luckett.
“He’s extremely supportive, always hanging out with us and giving advice,” says Antonio Foster, third assistant men’s basketball coach, co-weight room supervisor and former SCC basketball star.
One piece of advice that Coach West is quick to offer to anyone is “no excuses.” “Young people love to make excuses,” West says, citing it as his number-one pet-peeve. And it is clear from both his team’s 2016 NWAC Volleyball Championship and his own personal achievements that excuses have no place in West’s life.
As a child, West was an avid athlete. A Seattle-native, he was first introduced to sports through friends in his Greenwood neighborhood. West joined local baseball and football teams and often played catch and basketball for fun. At age 13, however, West was in a car crash, resulting in a broken leg and scars that are still visible 30-plus years later. Recovery took West over a year and he was ordered by doctors not to return to contact sports. Luckily for West, not long after being released from the hospital, he ran into a neighborhood coach who invited him to join his adult volleyball team.
“I had never seen volleyball as a real sport until that time,” West says. He nevertheless decided to give it a try. By age 16 West was invited to play for the NW Evergreen Juniors, the only Washington state team to compete in nationals. West and his teammates became three-time national champions.
After conquering the world of youth volleyball during high school, West went on to George William’s College in Illinois where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics and Political Science while playing Division I college volleyball.
West then moved to New York where he refereed and coached as well as participated in the Empire Games, which he describes as “a mini Olympics for New York.” It was in New York that he met his wife and his co-head coach, Raquel Chumpitaz-West. They began coaching together and have been a team ever since.
Last season West and wife lead the Dolphins to an NWAC championship. The ever-humble coach credits Raquel’s “level-headedness and organizational skills” and a “good group of girls.”
But although West does great work at SCC, he says his most memorable moment was at the 2012 Paralympic Games in London where he witnessed a man with no arms or legs swimming a race. “It inspires you to not give up. We have everything, no excuses,” Coach West says, looking up at a basketball player fumbling around the weight room.
“Why aren’t you in the gym?” West quips.