Nipomo High’s head varsity boys volleyball coach, Jay Ledford, passed away Thursday afternoon.
Ledford’s coaching ties to the Central Coast, which also include an extensive background in girls basketball, go back about two decades.
He was taken to Marian Medical Center in Santa Maria after collapsing from an undetermined traumatic medical episode that occurred at a team practice Monday, and his condition deteriorated as the rest of this week ensued.
“We’re frankly devastated,” Nipomo athletic director Laurie Decker said. “Any time you lose somebody that’s a part of your coaching family, it’s very difficult.
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“I think with Jay, he was so dedicated to the people that he coached, and the sports that he coached, it very much defined who he was,” Decker said. “He loved being in the gym. He loved mentoring young people.”
Nipomo plans to have a school rally with a moment of silence to honor Ledford today, Decker said.
Ledford also worked with longtime friend Mike Alexander in the Swoosh Basketball program, a local organization that has helped to provide college exposure to numerous girls basketball players throughout the area over the years.
Alexander described Ledford, a former Marine, as someone with a rare type of integrity.
“He really embraced the high school spirit, which doesn’t really exist anymore, or very seldomly,” Alexander said.
Updates on Ledford’s pending memorial arrangements are planned to be posted on www.SwooshBasketball.org, Alexander said, as his phone has been flooded with phone calls of late from those who knew him.
“Over a course of 20 years of coaching, you’re talking about reaching out to thousands of young people,” Decker said.
With its players obviously shaken, the school canceled its matches this week. After deliberating, Nipomo has decided to continue the remainder of the season starting next week, as that’s what Ledford would’ve wanted, Decker said.
Darlene Ballestero-Pirotte has been named the interim coach.
“I don’t think there’s any way to get around that the situation has been really rough,” Decker said. “It hasn’t been just rough on Nipomo High School but also Santa Maria. He coached different teams down there and was really close to the kids he coached. We have a couple whole communities that are mourning the loss of someone who was really dear to us.”