Mauricio Diaz has been part of three state championship volleyball teams as a coach, but Thursday morning he received a different kind of honor.
Diaz, the boys’ volleyball head coach at Miami Southwest and a girls’ volleyball assistant coach at Ransom Everglades, was presented a Leo Suarez/Walter Krietsch Courage Award at Thursday’s All-Dade Athletic Awards as he continues to recover from a Stage 2 brain tumor.
Diaz received a standing ovation as he walked to the Jungle Island stage, where he accepted the award and thanked the Miami-Dade athletic community for its support since his August diagnosis.
Although Diaz was honored to receive the award, he said the most important part of Thursday’s breakfast was “acknowledging everybody who helped me through this, continues to help me through this.”
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“My wife’s been there the whole time,” Diaz said. “She’s been nothing but supportive. Southwest Miami High School has assisted me in taking the time I need to rest and get better, and Ransom Everglades basically put everything on hold to help support me at that time when I was going through the surgery.”
Diaz’s wife, Yadira, said it was “nerve-wracking” and “exciting” to see her husband honored.
“This is a very special moment for him, with everything that he’s going through,” Yadira Diaz said. “I know that he’s well-known in the community and I’m very proud to be by his side.”
Ransom Everglades held a “Dig for Diaz” game in October, donating the proceeds from their volleyball game against St. Brendan to help pay Diaz’s medical bills. Other area high schools quickly did the same.
“I’m just overwhelmed with everything that so many people have donated and supported him with,” Yadira Diaz said. “It’s a great privilege to be in this community.”
Diaz led Southwest to state boys’ volleyball championships in 2003 and 2008, spent time as the girls’ volleyball coach at St. Thomas University, and helped Ransom Everglades win the 2013 girls’ state title as an assistant coach. Now, the longtime coach has another opportunity to serve as a role model for local students as he continues his recovery, but he doesn’t see it that way.
“I know these kids go through huge obstacles themselves in their lives,” Diaz said. “I’m just showing them that, basically, I’m doing the same thing that they’re doing. I’m going to get through this, I’m going to be strong about it, I’m going to get back on my feet.”
Diaz has an MRI scheduled for early next month to help determine the next phase of his recovery. He has regained his basic mobility but is not sure if he will be able to coach again.
“Summer is going to be big for me and how I heal,” Diaz said. “I’ll spend more time with my family … hopefully I’ll feel better. Depending on how these procedures turn out, I want to come back and I want to be back involved with the kids. It’s just a tough situation right now.”