Bio

DON KETCHUM is a native of Phoenix. He was a sportswriter for The Arizona Republic/The Phoenix Gazette for nearly four decades. He covered high school sports on several occasions as well as the Arizona Diamondbacks, Arizona Cardinals and Arizona State sports. From 2008-14, he was a staff writer for AIA365.com, the web site of the Arizona Interscholastic Association.

Friday, June 18, 2021

Bon voyage, Coach Laura -- you served Xavier well

 To protect and serve.

That was the motto followed by Laura Forbes and her colleagues at the Tempe Police Department during her 30 years there, many as Assistant Chief of Police.

When she left the department late in 2008, she was looking for something to help her protect and serve in another endeavor.

A staffer she knew at Xavier Prep said the sisters in charge had been asking for people to help out with various tasks at the school. So Forbes decided to give it a try, perhaps using the lifeline to continue to help serve people in the community.

“I was walking through campus to meet with Sr. Lynn (Winsor, Athletic Director and Vice Principal for Activities) when the bell rang,’’ Forbes said. “All of the girls started to pour out into the hallways and walkways, wearing their uniforms. My jaw dropped. It all seemed so organized. They were all so polite and many of them said hello.

“I was thinking, “Hey, I could work with this.’ I said that if Sister gave me an opportunity, I could work with whatever she gave me.’’

Laura Forbes

And so it came to pass.

Forbes and Winsor hit it off and Forbes went on to become one of the most valuable assets of the athletic staff, being able to step in and work with athletes in the various sports even though she did not have a lot of experience in a few of them.

She worked with the divers on the swim-dive team before there was a pool at neighboring Brophy Prep. She worked with the younger basketball players at the freshman and junior-varsity levels, and the same with softball and lacrosse.  And in more recent years, she has helped develop athletes in the sport of badminton as varsity coach.

Finally, Forbes decided that it was time to retire at the conclusion of the 2020-21 school year, giving her 12 years as a Gator. Although she has had a few health challenges along the way, she was quick to point out that that is not the reason she is leaving.

“I just decided that it is time,’’ she said during a break in a recent badminton camp session at XCP. She helped new coach Brian McNerney during the camp.

“I no doubt will miss the students and all of the other coaches and people I have worked with and gotten to know. There are a few things I might like to do, like travel. And if Sr. Lynn should call and need some assistance with a project from time to time, I might be available if the situation is right.’’

She would not trade working with these athletes during this time for anything. She has wanted to help them as much as possible along the way.

In 2014, she discovered the true impact of what she was doing in her time with the student athletes.

Forbes’ mother attended some of the games Forbes was coaching. One day, a student-athlete climbed into the bleachers and asked the mother if she could sit and watch with her. The girl knew Forbes had been undergoing some chemotherapy. She knew it was Forbes’ mother and wanted to tell her something about the coach.

Forbes’ eyes began to moisten when telling the story.

“This was a girl who was very quiet, didn’t say a whole lot but always worked hard to be her best,’’ Forbes said. “She proceeds to tell my mom about the impact I had had on her life, what that meant to her. I didn’t really know what to say.

“That was the cherry on top of the cupcake for a coach. That is what makes it all worthwhile, it is why you do what you do, to help these kids in whatever way possible.’’

Forbes said she was doing some math the other day. She figured she had worked with about 32 different teams at Xavier with an approximate average of 15 athletes per team. That would put the number of athletes she has worked with here at 480.

When Winsor was told that The XCP Files wanted to recognize Forbes and her career, Winsor said, “That would be great. She has been so loyal to Xavier.’’

Thanks, Coach Laura, for all you have done to protect and serve Xavier and Tempe and all parts of the community. All the best moving forward!!


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