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About the only job missing from the following list is an one-armed trapeze artist. So think of the next paragraph as the occupational melting pot.

Church pastor. Bouncer. Cop. Taxidermist. Bartender. Backhoe operator. Fisherman. Chemistry teacher. Librarian. Tribal council leader. Horse shoer. Cattle rancher. Pool man. Dairyman. CPA. Carpet cleaner. Garbage collector. Vineyard owner. Mortgage broker. Truck driver. Social worker. Stay-at-home dad. Tree trimmer. Used car salesman. Caterer.

So which one of these men coaches high school football in the Empire? All of them.

Come as a shock? It certainly did to Thad Owens, Kelseyville?s head coach.

Owens had coached in Texas and New Mexico, where a high school administrator looking for a head football coach would first consider a candidate based on his ability to coach. If he was a teacher, it was a bonus.

?Here it?s the other way around,? said Owens, who teaches construction, computer drafting and turf and landscape management. ?When I found out you got a $2,500 stipend to coach here, that just blew me away. At a small school in New Mexico you could get paid anywhere between $11,000 and $16,000 to coach. Obviously the emphasis on football is a lot different there than here. It?s been a little bit of an adjustment.?

Bob Cazet, Rincon Valley Christian?s head coach, once worked in Smith Station, Ala., where the athletic director/head football coach made $90,000.

?Smith Station doesn?t have more than 1,500 people in it and doesn?t even have a main street,? Cazet said. ?Yet there would be 13,000 people in the stands for every game. They just attracted people from all over the county.?

Well, this ain?t Texas, folks, or Alabama either, since we don?t have good barbecue or a reason-for-living football obsession. But it is still high school football and given that fact ? football is the most popular sport in America ? a perception exists that is far, far from reality.

Do the fans who follow any of the 32 football-playing schools in the Empire know the sacrifices, not to mention the occupations, of the coaches?

?Absolutely not,? said Mike Roan, El Molino?s coach, a physical education teacher at the school and former NFL player. ?They think we make thousands and thousands of dollars. It makes it tough to interact with parents sometimes. We are here for the kids. That?s it. We are not here to relive our youth or any success we?ve had.?

The skeptical, demanding parent may shrug off Roan; after all, what else is he supposed to say? Yet the evidence is overwhelming that working with kids can be the only reason. It can?t be for the money.

?Yeah,? said Gary Galloway, head coach at St. Vincent, ?and I?m saving up so I can retire at 75.?

Galloway laughs like his quarterback just tickled his feet.

Bill Nobles, head coach at Anderson Valley and pastor at the Assembly of God church, said he loses around $1,000 a year by the time he pays for kids? meals on road trips and the like. When Jeff Donaldson hears Nobles? story, maybe he won?t feel so bad.

?Just for the heck of it,? said Donaldson, Willits? head coach and garbage truck driver, ?one year I figured out how much I was making an hour. It was 2002. I got a stipend of $1,800. After all the hours I put in every year, it came out to 13 cents an hour. I told myself I would never figure it out again.?

Hours? What hours? People see only a couple hours on Friday or Saturday.

They weren?t there, for example, after Cloverdale?s season ended two weeks ago. Rick Berry, the team?s head coach, spent four days washing all the uniforms, collecting the pads.

Most head coaches take whatever stipend they receive (or a large sum allocated for the varsity staff) and divide it among their assistants. Even so, the money is more a token of appreciation. A few bucks hardly makes up for the sacrifice Ray Simon made as Upper Lake?s defensive coordinator.

Simon, an environmentalist at the Robinson Rancheria, lives in Middletown.

Middletown is 50 miles from the high school.

?During the season Ray made that trip six days a week,? said Upper Lake?s coach, Airic Guerrero, with much reverence. Yes, Guerrero can?t thank Simon enough. Unless a coach is a teacher at the high school ? only 42 of the 161 varsity football coaches in the Empire are on-site staff ? coaches need to find jobs they can leave mid-afternoon to make practice. Like Larry Arterberry and his staff at Elsie Allen.

Arterberry and three of his five-man staff ? John Pita, Eric Lawson and son Jerome ? all work graveyard shifts at the River Rock Casino in Geyersville.

The four men came to the conclusion they might as well make good use of their time together.

?We hold staff meetings to talk about the game plan for our next opponent,? Arterberry said. ?Usually around our lunch break.? That would be the 3 a.m. lunch break.

Coaches need jobs with flexible hours, and sometimes they can?t even find a job. Mark Britton, head coach at Laytonville, and two others on his staff were laid off at the nearby saw mill. Britton had worked there for 16 years, and a small stipend was hardly enough to pay the bills.

When it comes to having a job outside the box, none may rival Koli Palu?s.

Palu is the offensive and defensive line coach for Windsor. He is also a bouncer at the Round Robin bar in Santa Rosa. A former lineman at Rancho Cotate who played one year at SRJC, Palu said being a bouncer is not as tough as being a line coach.

?It?s more difficult to teach technique of line play to high school kids,? said Palu, 6-foot-1, 375 pounds, ?than it is to talk to a drunk and tell him to go home.?

On the other side of the job spectrum is Nobles, the church pastor at Anderson Valley. Nobles doesn?t have to deal with drunks but he does have to deal with people who use four-letter words. Just like Palu, Nobles gets them to tone it down, although he commands respect for a different reason.

?They cuss at me all the time (from the stands),? Nobles said. ?They have no realization they are doing it, because they do it all the time. So usually when I ask them to stop, they don?t cuss.?

As if that would stop the flow of fan interest. All the coaches appreciate game-day support, thankful people who care enough to attend and to exercise their First Amendment right to speak freely. Sometimes, though, people speak too freely.

Milo Meyer, Clear Lake?s head coach, used to see his wife sit in the stands during a game. Now Meyer sees his wife on the sidelines, the language in the stands being a bit too colorful.

?Everybody is an expert now,? said Ed Conroy, the head coach at Rancho Cotate. ?They watch NFL Network and now they got all the answers. I got one letter from someone who told me how to beat Cardinal Newman. He said he got the idea after watching the New England Patriots? defense. It was hilarious. He even gave me the game plan. I?m totally serious!?

At least in Smith Station, Ala., when they offer game plans, the head coach is paid $90,000 to read how the strong-side backer needs to come strong on second-and-short. That coach has time to read all the unsolicited game plans.

Russell Ponce, however, does not.

Santa Rosa?s head coach is too busy driving a truck for a heavy freight company, making at least one run a day between Santa Rosa and Sacramento.

Ponce leaves home at 5:15 a.m., gets in the truck at 5:30 a.m. and parks it by 2:30 p.m.

So could the Santa Rosa fans boo Ponce for the Panthers going 3-7 this year? Of course they could. It is their right. Glad they care. But if they do, they might want to cut that boo a little short and throw a cheer in there, too. Ponce is doing it for 13 cents an hour, or maybe it?s a quarter an hour, if he?s having a good year.

Ponce is in it for the kids. They all are. There is no other reason.

Ponce, like many, is literally going out of his way to coach. His job, and that of the other 30 head coaches, may be the most selfless one on any high school campus. How many people do you know who work for 13 cents an hour?

?Now, don?t hit anything!?

That?s the last thing I said to Ponce the other day on his cell phone. That?s not usually how you end a conversation with a football coach.

Then again, I could be talking to Rik Hayes over at Clear Lake. He is the offensive coordinator at the high school. I could ask Rik if he?s read any good books lately. Isn?t that an odd thing to ask a football coach? Not really. Rik?s a librarian.

For more on North Bay high school sports go to Bob Padecky?s blog at padecky.pressdemocrat.com. You can reach Staff Columnist Bob Padecky at 521-5490 or bob.padecky@press


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