Drs. Mark and Thuy Hughes talk to their Tigers pre-COVID. They hope to keep the players safe and have a season this winter.
Drs. Mark and Thuy Hughes talk to their Tigers pre-COVID. They hope to keep the players safe and have a season this winter.

[Editor’s note: The idea behind “Alphabet Stories” is to write one noteworthy athletics-related story about each OSAA-member school. We started with Adrian HS on Sept.18. Today’s story, more three months later, is about Central Christian HS in Redmond. The goal will be to write two per week. While we will be relying upon athletic directors to furnish story ideas, anyone may offer suggestions by emailing [email protected]]

Dr. Mark Hughes has been a family practice doctor for 15 years in Redmond. For the last five of them, he’s also been the head boys soccer coach at Central Christian HS.

Family physicians are the only specialists qualified to treat most ailments and provide comprehensive health care for people of all ages — from newborns to seniors. While this type of work is exceptionally stressful in normal times, it is nearly overwhelming in the age of COVID-19, where Dr. Hughes sees 7-10 positive tests per week.

“It’s been a challenge,” he said. “The biggest stressors are the uncertainty and continuous changes. We want to make sure we’re doing our best to stay on top of changes and protocols and staying safe ourselves while trying to find a balance to protect healthy patients.”

Several times each week, Dr. Hughes gets to step away from the real world to coach Central Christian. His wife, Dr. Thuy Hughes, a surgeon, is his assistant coach.

“It’s my second career,” he joked. “It’s where I’m Coach Hughes, not Dr. Hughes. I get to be outdoors and interacting with younger people, which is great.”

Central Christian is a small 1A school with about 60 students 9-12. It has boys soccer but not a girls program. The boys team has had 1-2 girls on it every year. They usually are among the team’s best players. Central Christian more recently has entered a co-op with Bend’s Trinity Lutheran to make sure to have a team of 11 or more.

Dr. Hughes and his wife both played competitive soccer through high school. He got his start as a coach in the local parks and rec league when his son, Lucas, was a second grader. Lucas is now a junior and an All-League goalkeeper as well as the No. 7-ranked high school-aged golfer in all of Oregon. Dr. Hughes accepted the position as head soccer coach at Central Christian when his son was still a middle schooler, as the Tigers were in between coaches.

“It’s been wonderful,” he said. “I love the small school/small team aspect. I get to know the kids and their families and we get new kids who join each year. I have players on the team with the potential to play in college and others whose only year of soccer came in kindergarten. I love the challenge of building a practice to satisfy everyone and have fun.”

Dr. Hughes said that his wife’s day job doesn’t allow her to be on the field with the team regularly but that she’s fully engaged when present and doubles as the team’s trainer. Athletic Director Brian Delamarter said that he’s just grateful to have them on the school’s coaching staff.

They are very involved here at the school and as generous with their time as they can be,” he explained. “They are dedicated to the soccer season when it rolls around and even more so to the development of our students both as young persons and athletes.”

When Dr. Hughes took over the program, victories on the scoreboard were hard to come by. A strong junior class has helped the Tigers win as much as they’ve lost more recently. Dr. Hughes thinks that this year’s team should be around .500 when/if the season gets started in late February. 

“We’ll be similar to last year and should be able to play the top notch teams without too much of a blowout,” he explained.

Wins, however, are secondary to Dr. Hughes as the pandemic continues to infiltrate the community.

"The goal is to find the balance between wellness and mental health and keeping them safe," he said. "We are building a plane as we fly it."

Dr. Hughes said that much of his pre-season practices have been focused on keeping his players safe, both from injury and COVID. They work on ball handling, spacing and conditioning while they wait for the go-ahead to start close contact drills.

“The kids will be fit and ready if and when we start the season,” he said.