They spend countless hours under the hot sun on pool decks and worn-down practice fields, in musty gyms, drafty arenas and sweaty locker rooms.
They teach, mentor, motivate, advise, facilitate, organize and a multitude of other tasks.
Though they all have names, such as Douglas, Jason, Rich or Jay, most of the time they simply go by “coach.”
It’s a title held by thousands of different people working at the youth, high school, college and professional levels of sports.
Each one faces different challenges based on the age group they are working with.
For local long-time AYSO soccer coach Douglas Black, working with a lot of first-time and novice soccer players requires spending a great deal of time teaching the rules and fundamentals of the game.
It’s a tough task since AYSO only allows teams in its younger age divisions to practice one time a week.
Even more difficult for Black than lack of practice time is dealing with unrealistic and overbearing parents.
“A lot of parents’ expectations for their kid is a lot more than it should be,” Black said. “They expect too much from their kid at this level. It’s a big challenge trying to get the parents to understand that this isn’t the World Cup. This is AYSO. We want the kids to go out there, develop at their own pace and enjoy the game. The expectations of some parents create issues, especially when they’re yelling directions at their kid during the game.”
Black is quick to point out that a lot of the parents he deals with are wonderful and cause no problems at all.
Bakersfield College men’s basketball coach Rich Hughes has other issues to worry about, like his players making good enough grades to stay eligible.
Hughes, now in his 14th year as the Renegades men’s head coach, also has the difficult task of constantly working with a new group of players since they can compete only two years at a junior college.
He has reteach his philosophy on the importance of fundamentals and a strong work ethic to a new crop of freshman every year.
“We stress always giving your best and striving to make yourself a better player,” Hughes said. “We also really try to emphasize being an unselfish teammate. Playing for each other. Playing as a team.”
Garces water polo coach Jason Gall also believes in teaching fundamentals but doesn’t adhere to a specific philosophy when it comes to coaching.
“I don’t have a blanket philosophy,” Gall said. “Success for me is retention. Getting to enjoy the sport. Love the sport. Want to keep playing.”
Gall, who was Cal State Bakersfield’s water polo coach from 2007-2016, led the Garces boys water polo team to a Central Section Division II championship last year.
“You have to develop a culture, where the kids buy in,” Gall said. “You have to have the parents buy in. You have to allow them to help to make the program stronger. There’s so much that needs to be in place in order to have a championship team.”
While winning is important to Hughes, one of his biggest goals is helping his players earn scholarships to continue playing basketball after graduating from BC.
He’s been extremely successful at doing that, sending 51 players to four-year colleges.
“If we’re not moving kids on then we’re not doing our job,” Hughes said. “Probably 90 percent of the kids that have gone through our program have moved on. It’s what we’re here for. I tell recruits we’re the carpet you step over to get to where you want to go, but it’s going to take some work to get there.”
First-year Bakersfield Condors coach Jay Woodcroft is in a similar position as Hughes, regarding developing players so they can reach the next level.
Woodcroft, like Hughes, has a to deal with the sometimes-delicate balancing act of trying to win games while preparing players for the next level of competition.
“For me, in Bakersfield, I’m very clear on what my mandate is,” Woodcroft said. “It’s to develop players to get them to the next level – but to do so in a winning environment. It’s my job to help these young players reach their potential and help them advance on in their career. That’s my success as a coach. That’s success for our coaching staff here. I believe that goes hand-in-hand with winning because everyone wants winners.”
Winning is much less of a priority for Black, though he wants his kids to be competitive.
“For AYSO, it’s about having them enjoy the game just as much as it about having them develop skill-level,” Black said. “My theory is, if I can get someone that wants to come back and play soccer next year, then I’ve done my job. If get a kid that doesn’t want to come back and play soccer next year because they didn’t have a good experience with me, then I’ve failed that child.”
Getting to see children develop an enjoyment of playing soccer is what keeps Black returning to volunteer his time to coach AYSO.
Woodcroft enjoys working with his assistant coaches and everyone on the Condors medical and equipment staff.
But it’s working with players where he gets his sense of accomplishment.
“I very much enjoy interacting with players,” Woodcroft said. “I feel very alive when I get to the rink. When you see somebody earn the right to feel successful through hard work and dedication, I think that’s a very rewarding part about coaching.” ￼