The role of the high school football coach is greater than that of any other level, and in most cases, a great deal more anonymous outside the immediate circle.
The prep coach burdens the load of the entire program, the feeder ones, too. He's a father figure to some, a mentor to all. Fund raiser, organizer, brow-beat victim to parents who expect and demand more.
Those parents. Got to them to produce kids but don't need them to produce headaches, either.
And high school head coaches are often in the middle of a juggling act. They're teachers and fathers and husbands, too. So how in the name of Hail Mary do some of these guys do it without having their heads spin right off its axis?
"We're all a little crazy," is how Granite Bay
coach Ernie Cooper explains the profession in general.
The coaching grind is rewarding one as a good many leaders will tell you that it's the growth of his pupils and teams and the journey that far outweigh game-night results and the $1,500 annual stipend. But the grind is unforgiving. It swallows every coach at some point or another.
This week alone, the Northern California football landscape lost two coaching leaders - from the same family.
A day after Butch Cattolico stepped down after 41 seasons at Los Gatos
at the age of 68, including 26 as head coach, his 38-year old son Joe Cattolico did the same in Elk Grove. His news was so stunning to his Pleasant Grove (Elk Grove)
team that players openly wept.
Butch stepped away because he said he's put in his time. After so many wins, fatigue has won him over. The victories include seventeen trips to a Central Coast Section title game and 12 banners and impacting scores of lives. Cattolico is retiring as a teacher at the end of the academic year, saying this week, "It's just time. This is really tiring."
Cattolico added that he wants to spend more time with wife Berit.
Which leads us to this: perhaps the only more understanding woman in America are the ones married to police officers.
And for Cattolico's son? The time is now because he, too, is worn out.
Even at 38. Joe Cattolico is the only coach in Pleasant Grove's brief history. He won four Delta River League titles and reached three Sac-Joaquin Section Division I championship games with a title in 2010. But like his father and scores of other in this business, you become a victim of your own success. These aren't 10-week seasons like earlier generations.
They're 16-week in-season marathons.
Joe Cattolico isn't going to replace his father at Los Gatos, so squelch that theory. He will remain as a social studies teacher at Pleasant Grove and spend more time with wife Natasha and their two young sons. But still, that's a lot of Cattolico coaching on the loose. Joe Cattolico said he very well may return to coaching in a year or so, but in what capacity and where, he isn't sure.
"I am a man at peace," Joe Cattolico said of his choice to step away. "I am at peace with a heavy heart. I love teaching. I love coaching football. I love spending time with my family. But whoa. There's not enough hours in the day to do it all. Teaching means a lot to me. It's something I'm passionate about. Teaching and coaching have a lot of merit - working with young people.
"I can't stop teaching because it's (what I do). It's kind of a three-prong deal. I can't stop being a dad and husband so I had to stop being a coach."
I found out about Joe Cattolico leaving Pleasant Grove while attending a Granite Bay practice. The Grizzlies are preparing for St. Ignatius (San Francisco)
in the Northern California Regional Division I game Friday at Sacramento State.
Cooper, the Grizzlies' head coach since the school opened 17 years ago, is 51. He has the energy of a 6-year old hopped up on cotton candy at the State Fair. When he heard about Butch stepping down, Cooper stopped went idle and reflected on memories of those Los Gatos teams from when Cooper led Aptos High in the early 1990s.
Some 30 minutes later, the blood ran out of the face of Cooper when I told him of Joe Cattolico. He immediately reached for his cell phone and placed a call. He called his friend Joe Cattolico. Cooper has no time table for when he might step down, but has said, "We've all got toothpicks in our eyes to stay away."
Coaches are a fraternity. Only a head coach can fully comprehend what another is going through.
Kris Richardson of Folsom
was burning the candle at both ends with a blow torch focused on the middle in recent seasons in leading a surging state power. He gladly welcomed Troy Taylor back into the mix full time as co-coach this fall. Taylor spent the previous seven seasons as a color man of Cal football broadcasts.
Those coaches, in their mid 40s, actually have a warmish hue to their skin. They don't look sickly gray and sound the part. They look refreshed because they split duties, and look who is chugging along at 14-0 and ready to take on De La Salle (Concord)
on Saturday at Sacramento State in the NorCal Open game.
"Troy totally saved me because I was really exhausted doing this," Richardson said. "It's hard to do this alone. High school coaching is a year-round job."
Meanwhile in Concord, I met with De La Salle coaches Bob Ladouceur and Terry Eidson this week. They came into an office to chat but didn't stand. They sit. They've got mileage under their hoods. You sit when you can. They've been at this grind since 1982. Ladouceur has been the head man since 1979. He's 58 but feels older this time of year.
Eidson, in a light moment stretched out on the couch in athletic director Leo Lopoz's office, cracked that he's never been more refreshed. Ladouceur looked at him and nodded with a frown. Ladouceur has hinted that he could be stepping down. It'll be sooner than later, he insists. This season? Next season? Maybe even he doesn't know. Talk
about an emotional scene when he announces that to his team.
He did say of his De La Salle run, "It's been a good life. I've really enjoyed it."
That sounds past tense. If the man who goes by Lad is nearing the end, he should stand and bow for a career well done.
If De La Salle beats Folsom and wins its fourth consecutive CIF Open State Bowl, Ladouceur's career record will be a mind-boggling 399-25-2.
But he can't step away at 399 victories, can he? Ladouceur doesn't even know how many victories he has. He doesn't chase milestones. He didn't even know his potential opponent this week after the Spartans polished off Logan in the North Coast Section finals. That's how dialed-in and focused on the immediate he is.
Butch Cattolico is also close to a coaching milestone. He has 264 victories, six shy of the Central Coast Section mark of 270 held by Benny Pierce of Saratoga High. He's stepping aside to pursue his grandchildren in a back-yard scramble in Elk Grove now. Not coaching records.
Ladouceur has said many times that he could see himself retiring as a freshman coach, the grass-roots teaching level in real obscurity.
Ernie Cooper of Granite Bay says that's every veteran coach's "dream job." Imagine that.
Joe Davidson has covered high school sports at The Sacramento Bee since 1988. Follow him on Twitter: @SacBee_JoeD and online at: www.sacbee.com and on podcast: ESPN1320.net