Gregg Dodderidge

Coaches can make a difference

The Aug. 12 Yosemite High Football Wall of Fame dinner was great. It is always great to see former players and coaches along with their families. It was a time to catch up with old friends.

I was blessed to have my son Jake and his best friend Tim Sargious attend. Both were former players who played in the glory years of the early 2000s. It is hard to put into words how much their former coaches meant to them.

For most of us who have played football or any sport for that matter, we all can look back at a number of coaches who were mentors and even parental figures. The influence of our coaches in any sport can be profound for the rest our lives.

To me being a coach is a huge honor. For example, we refer to physicians in a salutatory manner as ‘Dr.’ It is a greeting of respect to the position and the length of time it took to achieve the title. I look at the greeting of ‘coach’ in the same way. It is a title of respect for the guidance and care most coaches in any sport give to their players.

When you listen to the inductees you hear a common theme: “My coaches had a profound influence on my life,” or “It was a great honor to play for my coaches and my teammates.” For all player inductees the experience of playing football at YHS was pivotal in their lives. My favorite part, besides the people and the great food is listening to former players and coaches tell of their experiences. Their stories often bring tears to my eyes. I also leave learning a lot.

Let this quote from former player and inductee Justen Peek sink in: “Being humble doesn’t mean thinking less of yourself, it mean’s thinking of yourself less.” How cool is that? Justen’s former head Coach Aaron Eames gave Peek the ultimate compliment: “Justen was one of the biggest reasons our program turned around. He bought into what we wanted to do especially in the weight room. He used his influence and leadership to get the players to buy in. Our program turned around from there.”

Jake was thrilled to reunite with mentors like Aaron Eames, Erik Peterson, Bonner Cunnings, Pat Lynch, and Matt Mohulsky. . His eyes lit up when he saw them and there were a lot of hugs. Jake had other mentors there too like Ellen Peterson and Steve Raupp.

As a father, I was blessed to have all of you in Jake’s life. I traveled the United States on my former job and it was people like you who were there for him. Your influence was so profound that he went into the coaching profession too. He was an assistant at Palomar Junior College in San Marcos from 2007-2009. He is pursuing his masters to coach full time one day. You helped him live his dream. That is a positive influence.

Coaching these days isn’t easy. Many parents have no idea the amount of time and energy it takes to run a sports program. This is especially true in high school football where a head coach oversees youth, junior varsity and varsity programs.

It is here I have to give my full praise and support to YHS head coach JD Burnett. Many of you have no idea what the former Badger player has done for the YHS football program and our community. From a coaching standpoint, JD came in to an incredibly difficult situation.

A once proud Badger football program he inherited was at its lowest point. It happened over a period of years, for a number of reasons, and no one person is to blame. JD didn’t care. All he thought about was rebuilding a program that he grew up in and loved. JD set out on his rebuilding project by listening to former coaches and players who loved the program as much as he did.

With mentorship from former coaches, support from the YHS administration, volunteer efforts from assistants and their families in the youth and high school programs and community support, the Yosemite football program is now at a high level.

While playing as an independent against schools more the size of YHS, Burnett and staff had a turnaround season last year, going from 0-10 to 9-4 and playing in the D-V semi-finals. It was JD’s idea to temporarily move YHS to an ‘independent’ football team. Our program needed a reset. It was a brilliant idea and it is working. We needed time to be competitive again. JD and staff also went to the community to rebuild support.

To do this, JD and staff had to re-instill a winning attitude and commitment from players he inherited. There were a number of players last year who didn’t cherish playing. That has changed believe me. This team seems different than last year in their attitude. The coaching staff is solid and in synch with each other.

The idea of the Wall of Fame is also from JD. He saw a similar event in his previous stint at Kerman.

I don’t care what our record is at the end of this year. I know things are being done the right way, even though the path to rebuilding is never a smooth one. My hope is the players will cherish their time at YHS for the rest of their lives. I know they will remember the efforts of their coaches.

Your child spends much of their day with their coaches. Support your coaching staff. Politely ask them what you could do at home to help your child achieve their goals in their sport. A good coach will listen to positive and solution-oriented critique. Your coaches really do give so much to your kids. We are lucky to have them.

Added bonus: For those of you who attended the Wall of Fame dinner, it was great to see Anthony Ruiz just off his final victory in his 16-year, 35-23 mixed martial arts career.