After over 30 years of coaching football at various schools, Ron Hamamoto thought he’d experienced all there was. However, the unprecedented impact of COVID-19 on high school football, and life in general, took him by surprise.
The Unforeseen Consequences of a Global Pandemic
Three years after leading his team to the Division IV title in a thrilling 71-48 victory over San Diego, the pandemic brought about radical changes. Hamamoto, who boasts 232 career victories and holds the title of the section’s most successful active coach, is now struggling with declining participation in football. Despite a small uptick recently, it is not the resurgence he’d hoped for.
“COVID hurt us,” said Hamamoto, whose teams have reached the section championship at all four schools where he’s coached. “I think kids have changed because of COVID. We never had a numbers problem before, but in successive years we’ve had fewer freshmen showing up the first day.”
A New Generation Shaped by COVID-19
For Hamamoto, the pandemic’s impact extends beyond health. It has also affected the behaviors and habits of young people, including their motivation and attitudes towards team sports.
“During COVID, some kids got used to doing just enough to graduate,” Hamamoto observed. “They eliminated the 2.0 grade requirement, which I believe, along with depression, hurt motivation.”
The coach also noticed that an increasing number of students prefer to stay home playing video games or browsing social media, rather than participating in outdoor sports. Impact of COVID-19 on High School Football.
A Coach Committed to Building Character
Despite experiencing a winless season in 2021, Hamamoto received unwavering support from Monte Vista administrators who recognize the invaluable role he plays in character building on and off the field.
“I start each year saying maybe this will be my last, but it’s still fun. I still get excited about the start of the season and seeing what we can accomplish,” Hamamoto expressed. “I know you can’t go forever, and I don’t want to stay on the sideline beyond when it’s time to move on.”
Adapting to Changing Times
Hamamoto has witnessed the evolution of high school football over the years. The trend of high-scoring games, a consequence of spread offenses, has earned the sport the moniker of “grass basketball”.
Hamamoto has embraced the changes and is keen on adapting to the new normal while retaining his commitment to the sport. Despite the challenges, his passion for coaching remains undeterred, drawing inspiration from a quote by former Rancho Bernardo baseball coach Sam Blalock, “We’re lifers, we keep going.”