JSerra might have come up with the football coaching hire of the year when Victor Santa Cruz was recruited to become the Lions’ new head coach.
The 50-year-old had been defensive coordinator at Hawaii after being Azusa Pacific’s all-time winningest coach with an 84-69 record for 14 seasons. He spent five years coaching high school football in the 1990s at Oceanside, then left for the college ranks. Now he’s ready to take on the high expectations of coaching in the Trinity League.
He was interviewed during “Friday Night Live” about his vision for JSerra.
Why go back to coaching high school football?
“I’m excited to be back in high school. I started my career working for Herb Meyer at Oceanside for five years. To me, I always thought I’d stay there but then the opportunity opened up at Azusa Pacific. I’m all about the chance to compete, the chance to coach and make an impact and help people grow in the game, not just in football but socially, academically and spiritually. “
What will your offense be about?
“I’ve got a real history of being an attacking defensive kind of guy, but if you look at my teams at Azusa, we broke all the offensive records. We’re going to make sure we utilize our athletes and their strengths. I’d be a fool to shove one playbook down the throats of a roster that doesn’t fit talent-wise. We’re still learning.”
The Trinity League is like a college league. What is your vision for JSerra?
“That really was a deal for me because I’m competitive. I want to play football that matters. What I really loved about the Trinity League is every week you need to give your absolute best. What a challenge. And the vision for us is building champions while pursuing championships. Who my players become through the program matters first and foremost. But if you build the champion man, how they think, how they operate, then the fruit of winning comes out. That orange tree in the backyard isn’t going, ‘Please produce oranges.’ It’s a tree. It’s got deep roots. The fruit is a byproduct of who it is. We build the championship people and then you watch the winning come.”
Academics is important to you.
“It is important. I’m the first to graduate college in my entire bloodline and I get to see what the impact is being the first generation college student, what it does on your own family. You need to take ownership of learning.”
Much has changed since the last time you coached in high school. Parents are different, expectations are different, transfers are different. How do you adjust?
“College prepared me well for this opportunity. You have high expectations. You have multiple objectives and I get players and parents have a dream that they want to go to college. There’s extremely high expectations and high expectations are outstanding because you want to be around high standards. Misplaced expectations or expectations that are unrealistic or judging at the wrong time are when you get frustrated because they are a detriment to the development of a player and a detriment to an anxious environment for the parent. I’m trying to bring some clarity to what’s going on so we can all navigate this new world of recruiting, of high school sports and college sports. The college football world flipped radically in the last three years, and we’re still seeing the apples fall off in a random way. As we sort this out, coming out of the college ranks, my hope is let me help get some clarity and some perspective of all that’s happening so we can move forward and not let the emotions hijack a beautiful process.”