SALIDA -- The family atmosphere that encompasses all sports at Modesto Christian was something Bruce Pielstick had seen and heard about since arriving on campus April 12, but it didn't sink in until this summer.
"The parent support here is one of the biggest things that I just can't compare to other schools," said the Crusaders' new football coach. "We went to the Downey football camp, and the parents were there with us, supplying sandwiches and cut fruit. I hadn't seen that before.
"Everything the parents do is looking out for the athletes and making things special for them and it carries over to everything we do."
Now consider that Pielstick isn't just some guy fresh out of college looking to get his coaching feet wet at a small private school. He's coached football for 27 years at the high school and college levels, most recently at Clovis High.
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"The family support is the biggest difference between what we have and what public schools anywhere have, even the Clovis schools. And I know that wouldn't change whether I'm the coach here or it's someone else."
Last year it was someone else at the helm, and while Pielstick will do all he can to perpetuate the state championship success established by coach Mike Parsons, he knows traditions are built on consistent winning, whether or not the season ends with a trip to Carson.
Should Modesto Christian run the regular season table again, and turn scoreboards into calculators in the playoffs as it did in 2009, another state title game invitation certainly would be coming the Crusaders' way.
And while the returning players off that team would love another title shot, and the parents wouldn't mind another December trip to sunny Southern California, it's not something Pielstick's talking about, nor is it anything the school administration is whispering in his ear.
"Any pressure I feel is pressure that I'm applying to myself," he said. "How many repeat champs have there been? To expect that would be unrealistic, but our players still would love to win every game."
The repeat effort starts Friday when Modesto Christian travels to Oakdale for what has to be the most difficult season-opening matchup in school history.
Is that a new tradition on Sisk Road?
"There are some traditions that have been going on for some time here, some that even happened before Coach Parsons was here, and the players are motivated to continue these," Pielstick said.
But those traditions, he said, are of the football variety. There are the team weight-lifting sessions, the conditioning and summer programs, and the team bonding camp that most programs have.
Not every program, however, has the backing of parents who travel, cheer and cut fruit.
Bee staff writer Brian VanderBeek can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2300.