Modesto-area coaches honored for their impact on students on, off field

Well before Mark Loureiro scored his final touchdown and took his last at-bat as a player at Escalon High, he knew his future would feature plenty of days on the playing field.

Not necessarily as a player, but as a high school coach.

"I was raised in a sports-minded family," says Loureiro, the football coach and athletic director at his alma mater. "I have always had a burning desire to compete as an athlete and being a coach."

As a youngster, he was a bat boy and statistician for his father's baseball teams at Escalon. After a stellar athletic career at Escalon, he returned to coach the Cougars.

In the two decades since returning, he's won seven Sac-Joaquin Section football titles and been named the state Football Coach of the Year.

While impressive, those are not the memories that give Loureiro the most pleasure.

"The most satisfying feeling is every Friday when the game is over I see ex-players and parents support the program after they have graduated and their kids have moved on," says Loureiro, who also spent 15 years as an assistant baseball coach and is a teacher to kids with special needs. "The handshake that says 'Good job, coach' lets me know for them to give up their Friday night means they had a meaningful experience."

The impact Loureiro, and Sonora swim coach LaDeane Hansten and Sierra baseball coach Jack Thomson, had on student-athletes was recognized when the trio were named Model Coaches by section commissioner Pete Saco.

They are three of only six coaches in the section that are being honored this year.

Like many coaches, Loureiro faces the quandary of balancing the desire for victory with the need to educate.

"Do this job long enough and you have been on both sides of every situation," he says. "Win or lose, you learn lessons that build character. It is amazing how many kids you see later that still remember the important lessons they learned on the field that helped shape their lives."

Loureiro's football teams were 104-19-1 this decade, and his career mark is 212-39-1.

"Probably the two stats I'm most proud are these: 18 of the last 21 years we (made) the playoffs, and 10 wins or more 17 of the last 21 years," he says. "I truly realize how fortunate I have been to have that opportunity to lead the fine young men of Escalon."

While Loureiro was getting it done on a field, Hansten's impact came in the pool. She has led the Wildcats for 15 years and was The Bee's Coach of the Year in 2008.

"My favorite quote is 'the win is for the swimmers, and the swimmers are for you.' It reminds me that it is more about the kids than it is about the wins for me," says Hansten, whose 'Cats have won 13 Valley Oak League titles.

"When you talk to the kids, their goal is to have fun and swim fast. The effort they put in day to day determines the majority of what will happen during the season. The best seasons come when they challenge each other and are having a lot of fun together."

Hansten has put her opinions to paper, recently writing "Swim Coach." The book focuses on drills and workouts, and offers advice, too.

"I love knowing swimmers and their families, and watching them grow (and) make positive choices," Hansten says. "The first swimmers I had in 1995 are starting to have families of their own. It's fun to think that the second generation of swimmers will be coming soon."

Hansten appreciates the demands that swimming puts on her athletes, as well as the most obvious benefit: Being able to swim can save your life, or the life of a friend.

Every child should learn to swim, ski, and ride a horse, says Hansten, noting it was a bit of advice passed to her by Sonora teacher Barb Smith.

"The independence from being proficient in the water is a gift. I enjoy helping kids improve," she says. "My favorite moments are when kids touch the wall after a race, look at their time, and look at you like, 'Is that my time!?'

Her girls' teams won five VOL titles in a row, 2002-2006, while the boys have finished atop the VOL every year going back to 2003, she notes.

"I am most proud we never cut a swimmer, and that every student who wanted to be a better swimmer got the chance to be a part of this wonderful team," she says.

While Loureiro and Hansten have spent their careers at one school, Thomson spent 16 years at Manteca before moving to Sierra in 1996. He's dedicated the last 29 years as a varsity baseball coach, and also has coached golf and was an assistant on this year's VOL-winning football team.

"If we as coaches teach athletes that it is the preparation to focus on, and not winning or losing, it diminishes pressure and lets players perform to the best of their ability," Thomson says. "When we focus on the (preparation), it opens the door to teach work ethic, trust, responsibility, commitment, accountability, and other life-long qualities."

Thomson knows all about the need to balance the competitive spirit with sanity.

"Last year we had a very good (baseball) team. Two questionable calls and a forfeit by another team kept us out of the playoffs," he says. "I told our players at our last meeting that sometimes, for whatever reason, God puts us in unique situations. Our choice is to accept and grow, or feel sorry for ourselves."

His teams have won eight VOL titles and Thomson has been inducted into the National Baseball Coaches Hall of Fame. He was influenced by his mentors at Manteca, Walker Vick and Joe Handy.

"They were both very competitive coaches who had a desire to win, yet set standards that they would not compromise," Thomson notes. "They have had a great impact.

"In January of 2007, my wife Paula and I lost a son (Michael) in a bicycle accident. The outpouring of love from former players was unbelievable. Their message was simple: 'Coach, you were always there for me, I want to be here for you.'

"We always remember the wins and losses, but my greatest memories will always be the relationships that were formed."