When Jerry Fleischhacker was in the ninth grade, growing up in Communist Czechslovakia during the Cold War, he popped off in school about how bad the economic system was. He got into big trouble with the authorities.
“My parents decided to get me out of there,” recounts the 69-year-old, with a sheepish grin. “We went on a ‘vacation’ to Austria, and never came back.”
“Coach Fly,” as he is affectionately called by his soccer players at La Jolla Country Day School, where he has coached and taught the last 29 years, recalls an incident as the family of three was defecting.
“A guy in the train station joked, ‘Oh, you have some pretty big suitcases. Are you going to defect?’ My dad almost died.”
That ability to see things as they are and speak it out loud, which led Fleischhacker to criticize the system at a tender age, has morphed into a quieter style that fits the AP U.S. History teacher’s role molding his students in the classroom. As former player Marc Salomon (defender/midfielder, 1997-2000) says, “He was mostly soft-spoken, even though he loved a good long chat.” Still, according to Tim Sedwitz, another alumnus (center midfielder, 2003-07), “Coach Fly never shied away from offering his opinion, even if it was the dissenting opinion.” Fleischhacker proudly notes that Salomon went on to play for the Boca Juniors reserves in Argentina.
The Torreys manager, who just coached his 700th game, with a record of 363 wins, 213 losses, and 124 ties at the time of this writing, says the escape from Communist oppression made him “grateful” to live in the U.S. Another formative experience was quadruple bypass surgery three years ago for a “100% occlusion of the main artery they call the ‘widowmaker.’ My wife and I did a lot of travel after that, to Greece, Israel, and Japan.” You sense the deepened gratitude and appreciation.
Fleischhacker, whose last name translates as “meat cutter,” has a lighter side, as well. He has joked that his nickname should be “Tie-hacker,” as associate athletic director Robert Grasso mentions, for the 100-plus draws in his LJCDS career.
Israel DeAnda, a former player (goalie, 1993-95), shares, “[Coach Fly] saw potential in me that I did not see in myself at the time. He patiently encouraged me over several years to develop it, and actively helped me do so.” DeAnda developed into the league player of the year under Fleischhacker’s tutelage.
Athletic Director Jeff Hutzler and other colleagues at LJCDS note the 29-year veteran has never missed any of the 700 games during his Country Day tenure. The Torreys won CIF titles in 1994-95 and 2002-03, and 15 times they have reached the CIF semifinals.
Interestingly, Fleischhacker was a world-class table tennis player, competing from age 10 to 30.
He coached his sons, Benjamin (Class of 2007) and Alex (Class of 2010), the latter a Second Team All-CIF honoree as a center midfielder. All-leaguer Joe Carson (1991-95) went on to become a professor of astronomy at the College of the Charleston, working on the Hubble Telescope.