The Central Coast Spartans are hoping that a familiar face will help continue the growth of the past few years, and so far it seems to be working.
The new addition of seasoned coach Reggie Gary is not only bringing more players out to the program, but it is also bringing them closer.
“What really attracted me is the family aspect,” said Gary. “I really feel like its family here, and that’s important to me because I have true family values. The board works really hard also. They just tell me to go coach and they take care of the other things. It’s been home ever since I’ve been here.”
Gary, who has coached for 22 years in basketball, football and baseball, was with the Watsonville Jr. Wildcatz last season, and works at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Gary has lived in Watsonville for 18 years and says that giving back to the community is the reason he still coaches.
“When my kids were growing up I coached for their school,” said Gary. “My kids are gone now though, so these are my kids now. Volunteering is something that I’ve picked up, and giving of your self is something special. It feels really special and the sky is the limit in terms of the rewards. I’ve had boys that come back years after I’ve coached them and tell me, ‘Thanks coach for making a difference in my life.’
Those same family values and difference making is what drove president Daniel Tavera to make this possible.
Although the program is going into its fourth year, they have only had two seasons. The first season they had to sit out, and watch how organizations like the Santa Cruz Pop Warner ran things. But that did not deter Tavera in the slightest.
“We learned a lot (in that first year),” said Tavera. “We learned how organized they are. How excited they are. It seems like the families were excited to be there. We also learned how much work it takes from the community. And because of all the organization and rules, we saw how smooth things run. It’s hard being new, but it’s good to learn from organizations that have been around for 30 years. They’re always encouraging us too. They let us know, ‘hey Central Coast you’ll be there one day,’ the first year of it made me want to get into it even deeper.”
Another reason Tavera helped form the Spartans is the scholastic aspect of Pop Warner. To stay on the team every player must maintain a 2.0 grade point average, but the Spartans did more than just the bare minimum. Last season 70 percent of the players were invited to the scholastics banquet, and two of their players were National Academic All-Americans.
“It’s not just about football,” said Tavera. “Academics are also something to be proud of.”
Gary echoed the same.
“It’s all for the kids,” said Gary. “Football will always be there, but I want people to say that we have scholars in Watsonville. That’s what I want to put on the map. If we put championship football teams that’s great, but if we could get scholars that would be awesome.”
Even with all the positive talk, the Spartans have had some obstacles through their first three years. In their first season of play they had no where to play their home games, but just before the start of the season Pajaro Valley High School offered them a makeshift field.
Still, Tavera says that every year is starting to improve.
“It’s starting to open up a little, but we’re starting to see a lot more help and a lot more recognition. I think people are starting to figure out who the Spartans are. We’re not a secret anymore.”
The Spartans start their season on Sept. 1 on the road. For more info go to their website centralcoastpopwarner.com
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