I have often been asked lately what are the biggest changes that have taken place since I started coaching at Ramona High School 34 years ago.
When I came to Ramona in 1975, we were the smallest school in the big schools division in San Diego County. There were no division ones, twos, threes or fours, etc. There were just big schools and small schools. Ramona had outgrown the small schools and was in no man’s land.
The Bulldogs played Oceanside and Poway and Mt. Carmel before those schools were split. There was no El Camino, Rancho Bernardo, Westview, Rancho Buena Vista, Valley Center. Many of the schools on our schedule had four times our enrollment.
The male and female athletes at Ramona High accepted the challenge. The coaches sucked it up and coached. They never padded their schedules with patsies. They couldn’t. The small schools wouldn’t play us. Only the big schools would play us.
The Bulldogs never quit. They never made excuses. When head football coach and athletic director Mike Cunningham was asked about playing schools so much bigger than us he replied, “The rules protect us. Even though they have four times our enrollment, they can only put 11 football players on the field at a time.”
There were no feeder programs. There was no Pop Warner, youth soccer, youth basketball. There were no youth programs for girls’ sports. Kids came here and we taught them and coached them and they played their hearts out.
We had an athletic department. Every coach was a teacher/coach. There were no walk-ons. When teachers were hired, they had to coach.
Almost every coach went to every game that he or she wasn’t coaching. If you wanted to talk to the basketball coach or soccer coach in the spring, all you had to do was go a baseball game. They would be leaning on the fence rooting for the Bulldogs. If you wanted talk to the football coach in the winter, all you had to do was go to a basketball game, home or away, he was there.
There were no individual programs. There was no football program or basketball program. We had an athletic program. The head football coach coached JV or frosh baseball. The head basketball coach coached frosh football. The soccer coach coached football and track and was a trainer. The auto shop teacher coached wrestling and football.
We were small, but we were united.
There were few if any one-sport athletes. Most athletes played two sports. Many played three. There were no year-round programs. One season ended and the next started. In the summer kids worked or went on vacation or were just kids. It was a simpler time. It will never come back.
Athletes did not have their own individual coaches. They listened to their coaches and believed them and trusted them.
One thing has not changed at all. The community was smaller but was the most supportive community in the world. It still is. Rudy Stockalper, Johnny Dobson, Robert Hunt, Dan Vengler, Rocky Lawler, Jack Packwood Tony Prasher: the list is endless and continues. They gave—not just to the programs that their kids were in, but to every program every chance they had.
Times have changed. Not for the better or for the worse. Times are just different. Three-sport athletes are rare. Two-sport athletes are not common. The promise of scholarships and bonuses are now the motivating factor instead of being a part of a team or learning a new sport.
Coaches are expected to coach one sport the year around. They are not lasting as long in the profession. Burnout is common. Coaches quit to spend more time with their families.
In the old days, the families went to all of the coaches games and practices. The family was a part of the team and the teams were a part of the family. Wives not only attended all of the games, but they cooked the food for the banquets and chaperoned the road trips.
The school colors were blue and white and then blue and white with red trim and then red with blue and white trim. Now every school in the world has taken black as the school’s color and so have we.
The student/athletes at Ramona are still a pleasure to coach. There are more students and more athletes and we are competitive in most sports. The spirit was instilled long ago by young men and women who accepted great challenges and in some cases over came those odds but never quit or gave up.
The athletic directors didn’t get a prep period or a secretary. They got a stipend and taught full time. Mike Cunningham taught English, Jack Menotti taught P.E, drivers ed, health. Larry Bringham taught social studies and PE. Harold Holliman taught health. Joe Bess taught special education.
Many of the Teachers of the Year at RHS and the RUSD have been teacher/coaches: Dan Marshall, Giff Asimos, Steve Koch, Mike Jordan (both of them), Robin Brainard, Claire Schneider, yours truly. I am sure that I missed some. I apologize now.
More should have been or will be: Joe Annicharico, Bill Pittsford, Dean Welch, Al Schaffer, Ken Scheib, Kylie Harris, Jack Menotti, Mike Cunningham, Larry Bringham, Greg Fernandes and Mike Ernst. I have missed some. I apologize again.
Ramona High School is still a special place to teach and coach. It is a good place to play and compete.
Thank you to all of you who accepted the challenge when the times were tough and the victories were few and far between.
You were always winners and you always will be.