Tulare Western has no qualms about what it would like to see from its football program — a winning tradition to be quite specific.
So it only made sense for school and district administrators to be thrilled that they were able to land a new head coach from an El Diamante program that has helped set the gold standard for Tulare County high school football since its inception.
And to top it off, a Tulare Western alum to boot — Ryan Rocha.
Rocha was named Tulare Western’s varsity head football coach following Thursday’s school board meeting.
“What we were looking for was the best coach for Tulare Western. That was our (objective). Ryan, we felt, was the best choice four our students. We feel that he will be able to lead our athletes on the field and academically on where we need to be,” Tulare Western principal Lucy Van Scyoc said.
Rocha, a 2003 Tulare Western graduate, was a baseball and football standout during his high school career, and he couldn’t be happier about returning to a school so close to his heart.
“Humbled, I guess you would say,” Rocha said. “Excited, humbled and proud. I’m very humble to have this opportunity at my young age. It’s a job I have had my eye on for a while. I’m just thrilled to work with so many great people, a great staff and a great community.”
Rocha was the defensive coordinator at El Diamante in 2012. El Diamante claimed a share of the West Yosemite League title in 2012, and its defensive improvement was a key story line. In Rocha’s first full season in charge of the defense, the Miners’ scoring defense average dropped more than 10 points per game.
He was El Diamante’s junior varsity head coach for three seasons, one of those campaigns culminating with a WYL championship.
“No. 1, he did a great job for us,” El Diamante coach Mark Rogers said. “He’s a young, energetic coach, who has a great future.”
What will Rocha take with him from learning under Rogers and his staff?
“How to run a football program from top to bottom,” Rocha said. “It’s a year-round job. Every aspect of the program. You cannot avoid to look past any small detail. One of my biggest passions in coaching is developing the student-athlete in the offseason, and that’s what I will do at Tulare Western.
“(Rogers) knows how to coach. He has a long history of being a top football coach, and seeing that man’s work ethic on how he left no stone unturned and how he spent quality time with his players is something I want to emulate.”
Rocha also enters a football landscape that has changed quite a bit since he was a student at Tulare Western.
Tulare Union has been the powerhouse team of the East Yosemite League with six league titles over the last eight seasons, including a 2008 Central Section Division II championship. Mission Oak shared the 2012 EYL crown with Tulare Union and was a Division IV semifinalist in each of the last two seasons.
Tulare Western hasn’t won a Central Section playoff game since its 2004 Division II runner-up finish, and the Mustangs have had only one winning season over the last five years.
That doesn’t deter Rocha’s enthusiasm.
“I see a bright future,” Rocha said. “We’re going to bring a level of excitement that hasn’t been seen here. We’re going to have a great game-day environment, and we’re focused on building a new tradition.”
Rocha said that he has already assembled a coaching staff, which will include current teachers at Tulare Western — a facet that Rocha feels is essential for the long-term success of the program.
One of Rocha’s objectives is to get Tulare Western football more involved with the youth football leagues in Tulare.
“I would be more than happy to meet with (Tulare youth football leagues) and design a plan. If we can concentrate on coming up with a plan that allows players to learn some of our terminology and schemes, I believe that will beneficial for everybody,” Rocha said. “You need to build some consistency within your town, and I’m definitely excited about getting involved (with youth football). We know our future is at that level.”
As far as the Mustangs’ playbook, Rocha plans on installing a pro-style offense with multiple sets and a 4-3 defensive alignment.
“I’m looking forward to the ride itself. Not looking too far ahead, but focusing on the day-to-day. You need to have consistency to be successful, and I’m looking for that consistency at Tulare Western,” Rocha said.
Rocha, who is a 2007 Fresno State graduate and a physical education teacher at El Diamante, will be a full-time teacher at Tulare Western for the start of the 2013-14 school year.