Frank Ferreira talks like a proud papa when discussing Le Grand High's soccer program, and for a good reason.
There was no program until Ferreira created it 12 years ago, and here he is still coaching the boys' and girls' teams.
"I had experience coaching my son, so I answered the ad that Le Grand wanted a soccer coach," he said. "I was in Merced doing criminal investigations, so it was certainly a switch to move to soccer."
He led the girls (14-3-3) to the Southern League crown and their first-ever appearance in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division 6 final, where they lost on penalty kicks.
"We felt from the beginning that we were capable of reaching the final," Ferreira said. "We had a fine defense led by sweeper Maggie Perez and stopper Bertha Grandos, and midfielder Veronica Lupian got our attacks going."
Nancy Medina, the league MVP, was often on the finishing end of the Bulldogs' goals.
"A big reward from coaching the girls is to see how far they have come form the start to the finish," Ferreira said. "Many of the boys play club soccer, but few of the girls."
Ferreira's coaching style is different from most: He had a broken neck and was paralyzed from the chest down after an auto accident 32 years ago. He can now walk, but he relies more on verbal instruction to get his point across.
"I'm not able to show them, so I'll use a skilled player to start the drill and I'm explaining it as they watch," he said. "I think it helps, because they get step-by-step instruction while seeing it performed."
— RICHARD T. ESTRADA