Ron Hamamoto: Overcoming Pandemic Challenges in High School Football Coaching

In Ron Hamamoto’s football coaching journey, we trace the path of a seasoned mentor who thought he had seen it all. With over thirty years of experience at the University of San Diego High School, Rancho Bernardo, Lincoln, and Monte Vista, Hamamoto believed he was well-versed in the game’s challenges. However, the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic introduced a new playing field, inducing unprecedented transformations in football and school life.

Hamamoto, who achieved his second section title with a thrilling 71-48 victory over San Diego in 2017, has been grappling with the pandemic’s impacts. As the most successful active coach in the section with 232 career wins, he unfortunately experienced his first-ever winless season in 2021, followed by just a single victory the next year.

But these numbers aren’t his main concern. Hamamoto had been observing dwindling participation rates even before the pandemic, and despite a minor increase recently, it falls short of expectations. He expresses, “COVID hurt us.”

Hamamoto reflects on how COVID has transformed young players’ attitudes towards the sport. “I think kids have changed because of COVID. We never had a numbers problem before, but in successive years we’ve had 10 freshmen show up the first day. When the weather gets hot, some kids would rather stay home and play video games or be on social media.”

He further notes the pandemic-induced laxity in academic requirements and an increase in depression rates, which have sapped motivation. He feels the sense of competition that motivated players to attend practice has dwindled, and the previously integral sense of team camaraderie is missing. Ron Hamamoto’s Football Coaching Journey.

Despite a challenging season in 2021, Monte Vista administrators offered him complete support, acknowledging that coaching isn’t just about win-loss records, but about fostering character development both on and off the field.

As Hamamoto heads into each new season, he keeps an open mind about it potentially being his last, while still cherishing the excitement of a new beginning. He sees the game evolving, mirroring the shift to high-scoring matches in college football, with ‘grass basketball’ becoming a norm.

Despite the difficulties, Hamamoto continues to commit himself to coaching, noting, “We’re lifers, we keep going.” He admires the unique characteristics of different county areas, from the well-rounded programs in North County, the raw talent in the City, to the balanced and community-supported environment in East County.

Leave a Comment