Joshua Saunders: more than just a coach

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Joshua Saunders: more than just a coach

Saunders coaches his flag football team

Saunders coaches his flag football team

Photo I. Hanewicz

Saunders coaches his flag football team

Photo I. Hanewicz

Photo I. Hanewicz

Saunders coaches his flag football team

Amelia Foster, A&E editor

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Joshua Saunders is a man of many titles; around Robinson, some may know him as their IB math teacher, but most people know him as the head coach of Robinson’s most successful sports program: the flag football team. Along with holding five high school flag football state titles, Saunders is also head coach for the University of Florida Women’s Flag Football Club, which just won its second National Championship, a basketball referee and an Uber driver– along with being a father and husband.

Saunders first became assistant coach to Eric Vance in 2006 on a whim after Vance asked him to join. He then advanced to head coach in 2007 once Vance left. After coaching Robinson flag football for nearly 10 years, Saunders began to coach the UF club team in 2017 when approached for help by former Robinson flag football player Amanda Chromiak (’15). Saunders, shouldering both positions, has since helped lead the two teams to victory.

“If my players don’t know, I’m pretty passionate. It all comes from caring about them [the players] and caring about the sport,” Saunders said.

Saunders arrives at Robinson every weekday at 7:00 to prepare for the day and then teaches math from 8:30 to 3:25. He then coaches Robinson flag football practice five to six times a week from 3:45 to 6:15 during the season. When the bell rings every Monday, he makes the two hour trip from Robinson to University of Florida to coach the club team. Along with the usual schedule of practice, is the cycle of competitions and championships he must prepare the team for. Despite the constant work put into his coaching, Saunders is yet to be burnt out.

“I think one of his greatest motivations is just his desire to be the best at everything he does; the best coach, the best team and having that mentality going into everything,” Emily Kemp (’20), varsity captain and starting inside receiver and safety, said.

Saunders cites his constant motivation to be the best in all that he does from his family, and the support system they give him.

“I couldn’t do any of it without support from my wife; if my wife said that none of this was working then this wouldn’t be okay, but she’s pretty awesome and that’s the reason I am able to do all this stuff,” Saunders said.

Permeated throughout his passion for flag football is also his passion for the players. Referring to them frequently as “family,” he wants them to be the best in every aspect, not just flag football. Saunders’ respect for the players is clear, both in their ability to play and who they are as people.

“He has high expectations for everyone on the team, just because he understands our potential and how well we can succeed as a team if everyone were to play their best all of the time,” Chromiak, captain and founder of the UF club team, said.

While much of the focus is upon the players of the team, the coach leads behind the scenes. Since Saunders first got involved as head coach, the Robinson flag football team went from being 1-8 in 2006 to being 15-2 in the 2018 season, while winning four state championships and having a two-year winning streak in between. The practice is non-stop for the Robinson players, with them practicing on both Christmas Eve and New Years Eve, and only having a two-week break following winning the 2017 State Championship. Every action taken as a coach is made with one goal in mind: to best help the team.

“The Robinson team is our team, my team. Everything that happens at Robinson flag football I’m in charge of,” Saunders said. “I make sure that everything falls back on me.”

Although the Robinson and the UF teams have both established a flag football dynasty, Saunders works around the clock to ensure that both legacies remain. He is willing to do what it takes in order to ensure victory for both of his teams, all while keeping his sanity as a teacher and as a family man.

“I think he deserves a lot of respect from our school and the community for the work he does,” Kemp said.

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