New Coach Jimmy Nolan gives instruction during practice at Compton Centennial High, where players use the bushes behind the end zone (background, right) for bathroom breaks because they have no restrooms near their field.(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
Jimmy Nolan, the new coach of the Apaches, has to worry about gangs and lack of equipment.
biggest problem is simply making sure his
players have enough to eat.
After the first five days of football practice in a dusty corner of Compton, Hell Week rises to a new boil.
Jimmy Nolan, the new coach of the Compton Centennial Apaches, is wondering how he can unlock the potential in his young football team when he doesn't even have the keys to the stadium.
Some days he
scales the wrought-iron gates.
Some days, his
players climb with him.
"Right now we may not be too good at football, but we're great at hopping fences," Nolan
is able to borrow keys, open the gates and drive his
white Toyota minivan next to the field, the players store their clothes there because there are no locks in their locker room.
They dress in the sunlight, giggling girls watching from the bleachers, 50 kids of widely varying shapes and sizes tugging on donated shoes that are too tight, old T-shirts that are beyond wrinkled, and never, ever anything blue.
Blue is for the Crips, and this neighborhood belongs to the Bloods.
"Somebody donated blue shirts, but the kids are afraid to wear them," Nolan
"I am not complaining," Nolan
"Everything we go through builds character."
The construction required here is immense and intimidating, its burden falling on the thin shoulders of a pale red-haired guy from Mission Viejo who inexplicably signed up to spend two hours a day driving to and from the battle of a lifetime, coaching kids and changing lives for a $3,500 stipend that he
is donating to charity.
One week into summer football practice, the new coach is working with no office, no phone, no computer, no video camera.
can't order anyone to run the stadium steps because one-third of the bleachers are surrounded in yellow tape.
They were burned in a recent fire.
can't literally bench anyone, because, well, the field contains not a single bench.
last coached at affluent Laguna Beach High before leaving three years ago to focus on his
Orange County athletic training business.
Yet Friday, dressed in colorful board shorts and a white headband, he
hopped around his
players as if he
had just struck it rich.
"Some people wonder why I picked Compton Centennial
"After being here awhile, it feels like Compton Centennial
Other local high schools face similar economic and environmental challenges, but none has tackled a new coach like this - greeting a cheerful idealist with such a stark reality.
has two returning starters from a defending league championship team, and one of them is injured.
Half of his
team are sophomores and many others are playing for the first time, one even asking him to define "tailback."
Yet none of those things are Nolan's biggest problem.
"The biggest problem here is hunger," Nolan
"A lot of kids were getting dizzy, forgetting assignments, it turns out a lot of them had not eaten all day."
The No. 2 problem?
"They need rides home," Nolan
After getting a look at his
new team this summer, Nolan
did something that football coaches rarely do.
sent out three mass e-mails asking for donations for his
"It isn't like we could just hold a carwash or a bake sale; we don't have enough players or involved parents," he
"I couldn't think of anything else."
first missive with, "I am the sole booster club for our program....I need some help.
asked for water, food, cleats, socks, underwear.
asked for shoulder pads.
asked for one dollar per person.
sent the e-mails to more than 2,000 people.
"I knew it could be difficult here; that's why I wanted the challenge," Nolan
"But I had no idea my coaching would begin with soliciting big jars of peanut butter."
But the crazy idea worked.
Somebody sent cases of water.
Somebody else sent packages of boxer shorts.
A guy showed up at practice the other day offering slightly used cleats, and Nolan
tossed him a $100 bill and bought all of them.
It's nice, but it's only a start.
Nobody is comfortable yet.
The other day, Nolan
was pulled aside at practice by a parent who told him that a local gang had killed a rival gang member the night before.
The parent warned that retaliation could happen to someone on his
football team, and that Nolan
should carefully watch slow-moving cars on an adjacent street.
Oh yeah, and have a good practice.
"I'm like, 'What?''' Nolan
That was the reaction of the team when Nolan
was hired this summer, the last head coaching job filled on a CIF website, Nolan's best chance to get back in the game.
Nolan knew about preaching from his parents, a former Catholic priest and nun.
knew about playing from his
days as a defensive back for Santa Ana Mater Dei High and, later, the University of Utah
knew about coaching from stints at Cantwell-SacredHeartin Montebello and later Laguna Beach, where he
became briefly infamous for publicly ripping an opposing coach who refused to resolve a tie game by agreeing to an overtime period.
left Laguna Beach three years ago to focus on his
successful Speed Kills training business but eventually realized he
missed the kids, and so he
"The way it worked out, I feel like it's a mission for me," Nolan
Kenyon also promises that, later this week, Nolan
should have keys to the gates and maybe even a makeshift office.
Only half the players are there because the previous day's practice was canceled after there was a break in the school's water main, yet Nolan
can't stop hollering.
But for one sweaty moment Friday, you hope Jimmy Nolan
Thanks to the L.A. Times Writer and the New Coach Nolan for bringing this terrible problem to light.
There are a lot of issues going on here that need to be addressed and that need to be taken care of.
I agree with what Tamara said on the Big Ten '75 website.
was the first to ask whether Compton High School or Dominguez High School
are suffering and having these kinds of problems?