You can’t play golf every single day of the week, so Julio Mercado — a retired school teacher — coaches. The players and strong support group of parents for Bakersfield High’s girls tennis team keep him going. It’s a benefit to them that he’s pretty good at it, too.
Mercado’s coaching career started in 1975 as an assistant freshman/sophomore coach at Foothill. Since then, it’s spanned four different sports (football, baseball, girls tennis and boys tennis) across three local high schools. Most recently, Mercado led the BHS girls tennis team to a second place finish at the Central Section Division II championships, meriting his third BVarsity All-Area Girls Tennis Coach of the Year award since taking over the girls head coaching job in 1998.
“Phenomenal group of girls,” Mercado said of the 2017 team. “They all meshed well and got along together well, practiced well. They were just a very coachable group. The good thing is we got six out of the nine coming back next year.”
The first two times Mercado won coach of the year (1998 and 2002), it was after BHS won Central Section championships. This year, the Drillers fell just one match shy of Mercado’s third section title. Bakersfield lost to Redwood, 5-4.
Mercado had planned to stop coaching the girls tennis team when he retired and stopped coaching the boys tennis team after the 2010-11 seasons. But he didn’t want to go out on a 6-16 year — he wanted to restore the program’s success first.
Now, BHS has been in the section finals four of the last five years. Mercado’s still going and has no immediate plans to stop.
“As long as I feel I’m in good health and, probably, I’m able to do it, I’ll continue to do it,” he said.