With that decision, LJCD assistant football coach and eighth-grade history teacher Tyler Hales took over as head coach.
La Jolla Today caught up with Hales for a Q&A to discuss why he wanted the job, what he has learned during his time as assistant to Hutzler and what he’s expecting out of the kids and the program moving forward.
La Jolla Today: What interested you in taking over as head coach?
Tyler Hales: Pure and simple, I love Country Day. To be honest, being the head coach was never something I necessarily sought out. I have always just tried to work hard at whatever job I had, with the belief that opportunities will arise if I do well. When Coach Hutzler stepped down, this opportunity was one that I couldn't pass up. I love everything about Country Day, and there is no other school that I would rather lead on the football field. Another really important factor that interested me in taking over is that we already had a great staff on board, and I knew that if I took over I would have excellent men beside me to usher in the new era of Torrey football. I learned a ton under Coach — how to do things the right way, in a nutshell. Coach Hutzler did a lot to help me as a coach and to prepare me for becoming a head coach someday. For the past six years, I have attended the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) Convention with nearly 10,000 other high school and college coaches. Every year I go, I am inspired by the power a football coach can have on a young man. In recent years, I’ve also paid close attention to the many successful coaches describe how they have built their programs, and I started to envision myself becoming a head coach someday. I am hopeful that I can keep building our program like Coach Hutzler did so that I can make our entire school community proud.
LJT: Given your time with the team as an assistant coach, how easy of a transition will this be for both you and the kids that will be on the 2014 team and beyond?
TH: I really believe this is huge. I already have been able to develop a trusting relationship with players and I understand the high demands and expectations of being a young man at Country Day. Additionally, some of the freshmen I have even known since they were in third grade, where I got my start teaching at Country Day, and I taught them in the classroom multiple times; other guys I have also coached in baseball. I think that this mutual comfort level, where I know the background of the players and they understand my expectations and passion, will really create a smooth transition. I have already met individually with most of the current players and I will be meeting with the senior players in the next week to start planning how they will lead the team in 2014. I think already being at the school has definitely enabled me to hit the ground running. Additionally, being an eighth-grade teacher at the school will help me continue to get future players excited and to buy in to what Torrey football is all about.
LJT: What would you target as some of your goals for the 2014 squad?
TH: This is a great question. I believe in setting the bar high, and I see no reason why we can’t compete for the Coastal League title this season. While I am very aware of the tough competition and the many excellent returning players around the Coastal League, I am confident that we can surprise some folks next fall, especially with the great off-season we already have planned. I know each player and coach also has this expectation. Additionally, we plan to advance further in the playoffs than last season, after a disappointing first-round loss to a tough Clairemont team. As important as winning is, we also have classroom and community service goals for this upcoming season. I am in the process of compiling our current team GPA, and we will set a goal to surpass this by next fall. I don’t want the boys only competing on the field, I want them supporting and pushing each other in the classroom, as well. We also will be striving to do more for our community by working with our incredible community service director, Susan Nordenger, to help determine a cause the 2014 Torrey football team will be devoted to. Lastly, I want to continue to foster a positive relationship between the football team and the entire Country Day community — from students to faculty and staff in all divisions.
LJT: Back in the “old days” of coaching, coaches could get away with maybe coaching during the season and a little bit before or after. Now, however, coaching has almost become a year-round process. How do you handle that as a head coach?
TH: I am from Massachusetts and I played for a legend of a coach named Bill Tighe. When he retired a few years ago, he was the oldest active high school coach in the country. I saw him when I showed up for the first practice of the school year in August but after our last game of the season on Thanksgiving that was it, aside from seeing him cheering us on in baseball. Times have definitely changed. After being the head JV baseball coach for the past seven years, I have stepped down in order to focus on and prepare for football. I have already had very full days trying to take care of many of the details concerning the team. Where we are with high school football today, as a head coach you simply cannot get away with sitting around waiting for the next season to begin. You need to actively work to help put players in a position to be successful and to get them to buy in to your vision. In the end though, it is really important, especially at a school like Country Day, to not overdue it and push kids away from the sport or to burn out. I firmly believe in multi-sport athletes and I want football players competing and representing the Torreys in different sports all year round. In everything I do, I try to leave as little to chance as possible, and I am taking this approach to being the head coach. I want to make sure I have done everything in my power to prepare our players. Luckily I have a VERY supportive wife who also loves Torrey football.
LJT: Who are some of the kids you will look to to provide leadership for the team this coming season?
TH: Like I said, I will be meeting with next season’s senior class. I am really excited about the leadership these seniors will be bringing to the table. Not only are they a tight-knit group, but they do things the right way and they truly care for their younger teammates. There are no egos and there is a lot of selflessness in these guys. These young men already have some great ideas for how they want to lead and help be the foundation for the future of Torrey football. Not only do these guys lead by example and play with a lot of heart on the field, but they are also leaders in their classes, which is why they are so respected by their younger teammates. We will also have a number of talented sophomores making significant contributions next fall, and the leadership of these seniors will be instrumental in our success next fall.