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No fame, no fortune, just passion

Valencia defensive coordinator gives back to the game that set him straight

Posted: July 30, 2009 9:46 p.m.
Updated: July 31, 2009 4:55 a.m.
Valencia defensive coordinator Robert Waters stands amid the sleds at Valencia High. Waters' dedication comes despite long days and limited pay. Valencia defensive coordinator Robert Waters stands amid the sleds at Valencia High. Waters' dedication comes despite long days and limited pay.
Valencia defensive coordinator Robert Waters stands amid the sleds at Valencia High. Waters' dedication comes despite long days and limited pay.
High school sports coaches really do make sacrifices.

The long days.

Not much pay.

But it's especially that way for coaches who are staff members or teachers at their respective schools.

They are deemed "on-campus coaches."

Every one of them makes a unique sacrifice.

They don't leave school after the final bell.

Some even have unique stories.

Not many have a story more unique than Robert Waters.

Waters is the defensive coordinator for the Valencia High football team. He has been at the school since it opened in 1994 - first as a student/player then as a football coach/teacher.

In 2009, he took on another duty as head junior varsity coach for Valencia's boys golf team.

Waters gives more than most and as an assistant coach, doesn't get much credit.

"Those guys are the ones in the trenches day in and day out," says Valencia head football coach Larry Muir of assistant coaches. "They do work in terms of building relationships with players. Truly, the assistant coaches are the ones doing all the groundwork, all the fundamentals. ... Bottom line is you have to have great teachers as coaches and Robbie's a good example of that."

His uniqueness comes from his dedication.

Valencia athletic director and former head football coach Brian Stiman wants to talk about it, but has trouble finding the words.

He rambles.

"God," Stiman begins. "I've known the kid for such a long time. It's hard to put such a long time in a few words and get the point across."

Then he dances around what he's trying to say, alluding to Waters' rough beginning.

Waters, 30, even dances around it himself saying simply that he was a "knucklehead" who as a freshman at Hart High had a 0.8 GPA.

Valencia High opened up the next year and he was approached to play football.

He never played football in an organized fashion before, but decided to give the sport a go.

Waters spent a month playing summer ball, then quit out of disinterest.

Stiman called Waters and asked him to talk about things in person.

Waters met him at a practice and Stiman said: "Since you're here, you might as well follow up the next day."

He hasn't left the Valencia football field since.

After playing three years in the program as a linebacker/defensive end/offensive guard and graduating in Valencia's first-ever graduation class in 1997 (with a 4.0 GPA), Waters has been a coach in the football program.

He spent three years as a freshman coach before ascending to the varsity level. He became the defensive coordinator in 2003, even coaching the Vikings in the 2004 CIF-Southern Section Division II finals against Mark Sanchez-led Mission Viejo.

Again, he hasn't left the Valencia football field since 1994.

The assistant coach's schedule during the fall is usually as follows:

• 6 a.m. - Wake up
• 7 a.m. - Arrive at Valencia
• 7:30 a.m. to 8 a.m. - Film session with a player
• 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. - Five physical education classes (15 minute brunch and 50-minute lunch, though football holds a lunch meeting)
• 2 p.m. - Football practice
• 6:30 or 7 p.m. - Practice ends (coaches hold a meeting afterward for anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour)
• 8:30 p.m. - back home
(On game days, games usually begin at 7 p.m. and could last until 10 p.m.)

And then there's Saturday:

• 8 a.m. - Saturday weightlifting for the players
• 9:30 a.m. to noon - Film session
• 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. - Back home relaxing (usually watching college football)
• 5 p.m. to 3 a.m. - Back at Valencia High for solo film session

And then there's Sunday:

• 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. - Film session

"On Monday, we're rolling," Waters says.

Do the math - Waters is around the 60-hour mark per week with football alone.

"I think it was (an obsession) when I was younger," Waters says. "It's not an obsession anymore.
This is my 13th-year coaching football."

Then Waters talk himself out of his previous statement.

"Wait," he says, "Maybe it is an obsession. I don't know it it's an obsession. It's a passion."

Waters says he has no interest in climbing any coaching ladders.

Then why does he put in all the time?

"It's so much fun," he says. "It's a lot of work but if I don't put in the work then I feel we're not going to be prepared and I'm cheating the kids."

Waters, who has a bachelor's degree in kinesiology from Cal State Northridge and a master's in education from the University of La Verne, pauses when asked if his dedication is a way of giving back to a sport that put him on the right road.

"I think in a way," he says. "When you see the writing on the wall as you're growing up, you want to guide kids in the right direction knowing it pays off in the end."

Says Muir: "At the end of the day, you won't get rich doing this. Socially, it's a little different. (Waters) does it because he has a passion for Valencia football and a passion for kids. When you have a passion and love then it makes it easier. Otherwise you won't be able to do it."


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