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Prep sports: New faces on the Foothill

Prep sports: Eight varsity basketball and soccer programs have handed the reigns over to new coaches

Posted: December 19, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: December 19, 2011 1:55 a.m.

First Year Hart High School varsity boys soccer head coach Jovel Adonay instructs his team from the sidelines Thursday at Hart High.

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Call a few time outs, draw up a couple of plays and make sure you argue with the officials if they don’t call the game your way.

That’s all you need to know to be a varsity high school head coach, right?

If only it were that simple.

Between the four winter sports (boys and girls basketball and boys and girls soccer), the Foothill League is seeing eight new coaches at the varsity level this season, which makes up a third of all the league’s teams this season.

The experience level for the newcomers varies across the board, but the situations all bring forth all kinds of difficulties that stretch beyond the on-field tactics and strategies.

"You want to be a coach and you want to get out on the field, but I don’t know that I was prepared for all the outside stuff," said first-year West Ranch girls soccer head coach Jared White.

He and Golden Valley’s Charles Martinez are the two girls soccer first-timers.

In boys soccer, there’s Hart’s Adonay Jovel, West Ranch’s Fred McGinn and Golden Valley’s Fausto Arana, who coached Hart last year.

On the boys basketball side, West Ranch’s Shant Bicakci takes over and in girls basketball, Hart’s Terra Palmer and Golden Valley’s Daniel Veluzat are in their inaugural seasons.

Each sport and program requires a different approach and every scenario has its own set of expectations.

The position requires as much management as it does coaching.

Varsity coaches are responsible for scheduling preleague contests and for coordinating practice times and travel arrangements for road trips for the varsity, junior varsity and freshman teams.

For those coaching varsity teams for the first time, all the extra paperwork and scheduling can come as a surprise.

"The coaching part of it I knew I wouldn’t have a problem with it because I knew I was ready to take the job and coaching is what I’ve wanted to do my whole life," said Bicakci, who at age 24 is the youngest of the new coaches. "It’s really the other stuff behind it (that makes it difficult)."

Even coaches who have previous varsity experience have plenty to worry about in other aspects.

Jovel, for example, takes over a Hart boys soccer team coming off one of its most successful seasons in school history by advancing to the CIF-Southern Southern Division III quarterfinals.

"It’s not new to me because I come from the (CIF-Los Angeles) City Section where we played in one of the best leagues," Jovel said.

Last year, he coached the varsity team at Cleveland High of Reseda in the highly competitive West Valley League.

As a new face in the program, Jovel said he isn’t placing the highest priority on results and expectations.

"I’m more concerned with what they’re going to learn," Jovel said. "Are they going to get better as players? Are they going to get better as people, or are they just here to mess around?"

In sharp contrast, one can look at Veluzat’s situation where he walks into a Golden Valley girls basketball program that has produced very little in the way of victories through the years.

While on the one hand, he doesn’t have to deal with any lofty expectations or delusions of grandeur, Veluzat said the initial problem was a lack of interest from the community after the team won just six total games across the past two seasons.

"This is a program with no booster club," he said. "It doesn’t have the financial support of a booster club. These girls have to go out and find funds."

Through grass-roots fund-raising and rallying the support of team parents, Veluzat has spent the offseason boosting the team’s image.

His goal was to immediately change the attitude and the culture of all levels of the program. He said developing relationships with players, parents and the administrators is key to reviving a struggling team.

"They’ve given me control of the basketball program and they’ve been really, really supportive," Veluzat said of Golden Valley. "And to me that’s the most important part of building a program is having the administration there with you where they have your back."

No matter what the state of a program is when a coach takes over, the pressure inherently exists.

The job often comes with a high dose of scrutiny and requires long hours.

Coaches have to please all parties — players, parents, the community and the media.

It can be quite a juggling act for those coaching at new schools and in unfamiliar territory.

Turns out, a head coach does a lot more than meets the eye.

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