Thirty-five years after launching his teaching and coaching careers – and a dozen years after coming to Coast Union – Ron Garcia is about to head into the proverbial retirement sunset, and he’ll likely be carrying his golf clubs and a smile as he exits.
One reason for the smile Garcia is his teaching experiences at Coast Union.
“I have had the opportunity to work with the best kids over the last eleven years. They are the nicest kids,” he said. “Some weren’t the greatest students in the world, or the most teachable students – but over the last 35 years of teaching, nowhere have I had nicer kids than I had here in Cambria. That’s the honest truth.”
In addition to teaching social studies, during the past year Garcia has held the position of head coach for Coast Union’s football team – and he also has served as athletic director for the school.
In his most recent football coaching gig (2017) Garcia teamed with offensive coordinator Charlie Casale to fashion a 5-4 record, including 3-1 in the Coast Valley League.
His involvement in, and his love of sports, began when he was a student at Caruthers High School. Garcia played football, tennis and basketball, and participated in track and field by tossing the discus and heaving the shot put as far as possible.
While in high school, Garcia had the idea that he wanted to be in business, perhaps start his own business. But his college experience (at Fresno State) led him toward teaching and coaching. In fact, Garcia turned toward coaching and teaching because “I didn’t have the best experiences with coaches in high school, so I wanted to give kids something more than what I got in high school.
“That’s really what motivated me – it really was. I recall thinking, ‘I’m going to coach the right way, not the way I was exposed to high school sports.’”
Asked if his teaching style has changed over the years, Garcia said, “I don’t think my style has really changed. I do things the same way I have always done it. I’m sure there are techniques that are better than what I do.” But if the kids are learning, and getting something out of his classes, he feels that he has done his job.
Have students changed over the years he has taught? “I don’t think kids have changed. There are more distractions today, but kids are kids.” That said, he added that the word “disrespect” hasn’t come out of his mouth in reference to his students’ deportment in his classroom.
In January 2017, Garcia accepted the dual responsibilities of serving as Coast Union head football coach and athletic director – the first time he had served in the latter capacity. He said there are challenges in being the AD for a school in the Coast Valley League – including the tedious tasks of making frequent changes in scheduling games for the 10 sports Coast students compete in.
For example, tiny CVL member Cuyama Valley has canceled games for both baseball and softball because lacked enough players to field a full team. Hence, Coast Union has four fewer games on its schedule (teams in the CVL play home and road games).
“You try to build a schedule, but then you lose four games. Now, it’s too late to schedule games to replace those four. We still don’t know what Shandon’s going to do,” Garcia continued. Shandon, another very small school, has struggled to put enough student athletes on the field in previous seasons – but rather than cancel its baseball program, Shandon has been known to invite girls to play baseball.
That said, Garcia brings up a point that is a stickler for him. Some small schools like Shandon – which has only 61 students – still somehow manage to field teams, whereas Coast Union, “by far the largest school enrollment in the Coast Valley League” (with over 200 students) still struggles to get enough student athletes to commit to a sport.
“What we’re seeing at Coast Union right now is a lack of involvement in the athletic program. I don’t know why kids aren’t getting involved in sports here.” Garcia mentions that Valley Christian Academy in Santa Maria has around 85 students – “and yet they had 20 boys out for football.
“So why are we struggling to put 16 boys on our football field?”
Garcia also mentioned that there only eight players went out for Bronco varsity basketball this past season, but some of those very small schools field varsity and a junior varsity basketball teams.
When it comes to his coaching, Garcia was firm in his description of what coaches should be doing. “A lot of people out there like to second-guess coaches. They think they know something about the game. But in coaching, X’s and O’s have very little to do with success as a coach.
“Coaching is managing people. Can you organize kids? Can you hold them accountable? Can you be organized in what you’re doing with them? That’s what coaching is.”
Garcia and Casale put that philosophy on display during the late summer of 2017, as they were getting their football players in shape for the season, and teaching fundamentals. With blasts from his shrill whistle and his firmly articulated verbal commands, Garcia demanded – and received – respect from the players. It resulted in Coast winning three of its four league football games.
Asked what he will do in his retirement, Garcia smiled and said, “I’ll have a lot of time to play golf!”