Bob Valladao saw an opportunity he couldn’t pass up.
Valladao is stepping down as the Atwater High School football coach to become an associate principal there. The decision to walk away from coaching wasn’t easy for Valladao, who was the Falcons head coach for nine years.
“It’s tough,” he said. “Right now, it’s exciting because I’m going to do something new. But I know come this fall, on that first Friday night of football, I’m going to miss it. But, I’ll still be at Atwater. I’ll still see the kids.”
Although Valladao will still be around students all day, he’s going to miss the interaction with the players and the relationships that develop. Coaches spend lots of time with players at practices, camps, bus rides and film sessions.
Never miss a local story.
There’s also all the time spent with coaches that he’ll miss.
With his new position still at Atwater, however, it will make the transition easier for Valladao.
“For me, I know I’ll be somewhere familiar,” he said. “I know a lot of the kids. It will be a different role for me. I’ll see things from a different side.”
The Falcons went 35-59 during Valladao’s tenure as head coach, with three playoff appearances. Atwater’s best season under Valladao came in 2009, when the Falcons went 8-4 and advanced to the second round of the playoffs.
One of the best moments during the Valladao era came during that season when quarterback Nathan Sanchez threw a last-second touchdown to defeat Merced 21-20 in the Santa Fe Bowl.
“That whole season was a special group of guys,” Valladao said. “Every year there’s a different group of guys. Some of them are now coaching with us. Some of your favorite ones are the players who maybe didn’t start when they were freshmen or sophomores, but worked hard to get in a position where they played their last two years.”
Valladao received his administration credential two years ago in case he decided he wanted to go in that direction. When Atwater’s associate principal, Paul Bristow, was named the principal at Sequoia High in Merced, an administration spot opened up.
The timing was right for Valladao.
One thing he won’t miss about coaching is the roller-coaster ride from season to season.
“You’re emotionally tied in to everything,” Valladao said. “You take everything so personally. When you’re not doing well, you analyze everything you did. When things are going well, you try not to get too excited because you know they can be taken away instantly.”
Valladao says he plans to help out as much as he can this summer. He also said there may be interest in the head coaching position from members of his staff.