Sonoma Family Life Magazine June 2010 : SC_06_June_2010_36pg_Bluetoad-00014

Steve by Suzanne Maggio-Hucek would now be attending to. It had been a good season. A great season. But on this chilly night in December, Steve Ellison said goodbye to a storied career that spanned three decades, eight presidents and three undefeated seasons. O Fresh out of San Francisco State University in 1968, Ellison stepped into a job at the San Rafael Military Academy. He taught five classes of Physical Education and served as an assistant football and basketball coach. As luck would have it, just as Ellison was hired, the track coach resigned, and he, without any track experience, became the head track coach as well. It was a memorable year, one that he enjoyed a great deal. The next year, in 1969, he moved to Sacred Heart High School to become an assistant football coach while also teaching History and English. He must have had something special early on because by the next year, Ellison was named head coach of the football team. Young, naïve, and maybe a little bit cocky, he was about to learn a difficult lesson about coaching. “My first year as a head coach, we won five games. I thought I was pretty good,” he said with a wry smile and the wisdom hindsight offers. “The next year we went 0–9.” It was a complete reversal, an experience that would test Ellison’s mettle. Not only had they lost all their games, there was never even a game when they had the lead. The following year they went 0–10. “It was very humbling. We lost 22 14 Sonoma Family Life June 2010 Ellison Teacher, Coach, Mentor Coach Ellison and his Grandson. n December 4th, 2009, Petaluma High School’s head football coach for 33 years took off his headset for the very last time. Despite a continuing passion for teaching and coaching, there were priorities off the field that he Coach Ellison and wife Linda Celebrate His 200th Win! www.sonomafamilylife.com

Meet Petaluma Highs Steve Ellison

Suzanne Maggio Hucek

On December 4th, 2009, Petaluma High School’s head football coach for 33 years took off his headset for the very last time. Despite a continuing passion for teaching and coaching, there were priorities off the field that he would now be attending to. It had been a good season. A great season. But on this chilly night in December, Steve Ellison said goodbye to a storied career that spanned three decades, eight presidents and three undefeated seasons.<br /> <br /> Fresh out of San Francisco State University in 1968, Ellison stepped into a job at the San Rafael Military Academy. He taught five classes of Physical Education and served as an assistant football and basketball coach. As luck would have it, just as Ellison was hired, the track coach resigned, and he, without any track experience, became the head track coach as well. It was a memorable year, one that he enjoyed a great deal. The next year, in 1969, he moved to Sacred Heart High School to become an assistant football coach while also teaching History and English. He must have had something special early on because by the next year, Ellison was named head coach of the football team.<br /> <br /> Young, naïve, and maybe a little bit cocky, he was about to learn a difficult lesson about coaching. “My first year as a head coach, we won five games. I thought I was pretty good,” he said with a wry smile and the wisdom hindsight offers. “The next year we went 0–9.” It was a complete reversal, an experience that would test Ellison’s mettle. Not only had they lost all their games, there was never even a game when they had the lead. The following year they went 0–10. “It was very humbling. We lost 22 Straight games. My seniors never won a single game in their high school careers.<br /> <br /> That’s when I began to understand that there was a lot more to coaching than I realized.” What was success and failure and how was it measured? What were the lessons to be learned from those early years?<br /> <br /> Ellison, who coached with former NFL head coach Mike Holmgren in those early days, remembers those experiences with appreciation. “There was a lot more to it than how many points you ended up with at the end of the game,” he says now. “We learned to work hard, to respect our opponents and ourselves. No matter where your talents lie, you have to work hard at them. Even today, when I visit with Mike, we talk about that, about how we learned the right perspective early. We talk about the mistakes we made in those early years.” “Those who do not learn from history are destined to repeat it.” George Santayana said.<br /> <br /> Ellison, a man who clearly understands history, is a life-long learner.<br /> <br /> “He teaches the game the way it’s supposed to be taught,” said Manny Lopes, a former student, football player, teaching assistant and one of Ellison’s assistant football coaches for the past 20 years. “He’s been coaching almost as long as I’ve been alive,” Lopes says with a sense of amazement. “He never stopped learning about the game.<br /> <br /> Despite the fact that he’s been coaching for 37 years, he was never so arrogant as to think he knew it all. From film study, to practice, to a new way to run a drill, he never stopped learning.” Lopes, who many years later still calls Ellison “Coach,” credits him with teaching lessons that he uses in his life today. “Things aren’t always going to go perfectly,” he says of the man he considers a father figure. “When they don’t, don’t give up. Go back to the drawing board and work harder. Through repetition and hard work, you’re going to get better.” As a young man, Lopes was a little hot headed. Ellison taught him to not be so quick to react, a lesson that has helped him in his career and in his life.<br /> <br /> As a coach and teacher, Ellison always had an open door policy. His players loved him. “Despite the fact that he was old enough to be their grandfather, there was no generation gap,” Lopes told me.<br /> <br /> “He treated them with respect and always found a way to connect. He has a great sense of humor.” Ellison admits that towards the end of his career, he enjoyed teaching history as much as he loved coaching football. His enjoyment lay in watching kids exceed what they believed they were capable of. Some of his favorite moments in the classroom involved the kids who struggled the most. “I loved seeing them get it,” he said with a smile. “When they finally put it all together, their face lights up like a Christmas tree.” His passion for teaching inspired his daughter to go into education as well.<br /> <br /> Shana (Ellison) Stewart is a first grade teacher in Mill Valley, CA and the recent winner of the Terwilliger and Golden Bell awards for teaching excellence.<br /> <br /> Much to his surprise, Stewart, in her acceptance speech, spoke of her dad’s impact on her career choice. “Dad was a wonderful teacher.” She would know. As well as being his daughter, she was also a former student.<br /> <br /> “He was always so into his students. He gets letters telling him what a difference he made and people stop by, years after they graduate, to say thank you. He was a father figure to many kids.” And yet, with all the accolades he has received in his long and storied career as a coach and teacher, he is most proud of his role as a father. Ellison has two children, Shana and son Scott, who lives in San Francisco and works in product Development for The North Face. “His family is his life,” Shana told me. “He was an amazing father. Because he was a teacher, he was always home for dinner.<br /> <br /> He was easy to talk to and because he was involved in the high school, he always understood where I was coming from. He encouraged and supported me.” The feeling is clearly mutual. Ellison is immensely proud of his two children.<br /> <br /> “There was so much more to parenting than I ever imagined,” he said, looking back. His children inspire and motivate him. “I wasn’t a very good high school student,” he admits. “I was lazy and much too social. To me, my kid’s integrity is outstanding. Whenever I get careless, I think about them.” Fatherhood has its moments. Walking his daughter down the aisle on her wedding day.<br /> <br /> Watching her be a mother to his grandson. “Being a parent has helped make me a much better person,” Ellison gushes. “To watch her be so responsible, to do it so well. What a thrill.” And he is a doting grandpa. Brady, now two, has just begun to put words together. They talk regularly on the telephone and over the computer on Skype. It’s given Grandpa the chance to reminisce and remember what those early years were like when his kids were small. “I remember thinking,” he tells me of the different stages of development, ”This is so great. And then the next year is even better. They go to elementary school and elementary school is even better still and Even in high school, when they question you a little bit, even that was great.” He recalls a time when the kids were home from college and they were sitting around the dinner table talking and having a conversation. “I remember thinking to myself, ‘this is fantastic. We’re sitting around as four adults talking, my wife and my two kids. Wow!’” Just before his retirement, one evening last fall, as Petaluma High was getting ready to play Rancho Cotati, Coach Ellison stood, as he always did, in the middle of the grassy football field. The assistants were handling the warm up and he waited at center field for his pre-game guest.<br /> <br /> Dressed in his purple and white game day outfit, Ellison’s grandson Brady came running full speed and jumped into his “Papa’s” arms. “I thought I had died and gone to heaven,” Ellison remembers.<br /> <br /> “At that moment, I didn’t care what happened in the game. My day was complete.” Ellison’s life had come full circle.

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