During the 2019 vacation, Dion Evans asked his family what he could do as a father and husband to help the family get better in the coming New Year.
It was this family discussion that resulted in Evans being hired in February as the new soccer coach for South San Francisco High School for the upcoming season. Evans said it was his family’s response that brought him to South City.
“My daughter said, ‘We have something for you. We want you to do something selfish. They do many things for people and do so for free. This year we want you to do something selfish, ”said Evans, director of sports at Madison Park Academy in East Oakland. “What I wanted most to do, if I had to drop everything, would be to train soccer.
“So I gave myself the opportunity to examine it.”
Evans has spent the past 30 years in youth / college sports, particularly soccer. Even when forced to close Madison Park Academy’s football program after interest declined from 400 students, Evans continued to help children learn the game of football by coaching coaches in Oakland’s youth leagues.
But he tried very hard to get back to the Xs and Os himself.
How does an Oakland coach get to South City? When Evans was looking for a program, there were certain criteria that he had. First and foremost, it couldn’t be a coaching job in Oakland. He didn’t want the awkwardness of training against children who might also be his students. Second, he wanted a program that had gotten into tough times because Evans wanted the chance to build something with a blueprint that he believed could be successful.
“I was deliberately looking for a soccer program that had soccer teams in the past but didn’t win in the past (recently). In my research, I found South San Francisco, ”said Evans, who is the Warriors’ fifth coach in six years. “I went through videos, cleaned up all the results from last season – it was the worst season in school history.”
South City didn’t win a game in 2019 and are on a 20-game streak of bad luck after also missing a win in 2018.
“Even a field goal per game is worth 30 points (for one season). They only had 20 points (scored in 2019), ”said Evans.
After finding head coaching jobs in the Bay Area, was South City the worst Evans could find by his criteria?
“Absolutely,” he said. “(But) those were the kids I wanted to train.”
Evans has shown a knack for turning languid programs upside down. In 1999, he took the job as the head coach of Oakland High, a program that had won one game in each of the previous four seasons. In the first three games of the 1999 season, the Wildcats beat their opponents 100-0. He moved to McClymonds where he worked with the junior varsity team when the warriors transformed into a regional power. When he took on as the sporting director at Madison Park Academy, he took over the soccer program before adding basketball, volleyball, and athletics to his coaching resume.
“What I did was take my football expertise and use it in different sports,” said Evans. “I transferred my skills to other sports and in every other sport we went to the playoffs in the second year.”
South City wasn’t always a doormat. The Warriors football program was a powerhouse in the 1980s, closing the decade with two Central Coast Section titles in 1980 and 1989, with Mike Tenerowicz leading the program.
But consistent success has been harder to find since then. From 2001 to 2010, the Warriors were 28-36 in the Peninsula Athletic League and 53-47 in the overall standings with three playoff appearances.
However, from 2011 to 2019, South City has an overall record of 33-55 and only 17-37 against PAL opponents. The last CCS appearance of the program will take place in 2012.
But when watching the South City team’s 2019 film, Evans said he saw some positive progress. He noted that despite eliminating the seniors from the 2019 roster, there were still 40 players who could return for 2020. He also noted that despite her record, the talent wasn’t terrible.
“From what I saw watching a movie, some kids were fast, but they were average speed. I’ve seen kids who were tall but average height, ”said Evans, more than enough talent to compete in the PAL Lake Division. “They just didn’t have the basics of the game.”
He went to the interview committee to investigate, put forward his plan, and finally received the call that he had been hired. Evans immediately laid the groundwork for the 2020 season. As of February, there were just as many face-to-face meetings, and since the pandemic shutdown, Evans has continued virtual meetings twice a week. He also revived the team’s Twitter page, where the last post was posted during the 2018 season. Evans has also been aggressive in recruiting team support staff.
But his biggest challenge was keeping the local children on site.
“When I got there, [administrators] gave me a list of 15 newbies who wanted to play soccer. I’ve set up recruiting meetings. I treated it like college recruiting, ”Evans said. “After this recruiting process, all 15 freshmen parents said, ‘Our children are in your hands.'”
With his recruiting efforts, Evans currently has 30 on the varsity list and 40 on the junior varsity list – which will be an all-freshman team.
“My goal is to get everyone who knows about the loss (in South City) into college,” said Evans. “And take any kids who don’t know about losing and put them on the JV team.”
Despite his enthusiasm, don’t think Evans is a pie-in-the-sky, everything is a great kind of trainer. He has no problem telling his players where they stand and will neither gloss over the bad nor overreact to the good.
“There are three types of coaches,” said Evans. “Bad coaches who just tell you what you’re doing wrong; good trainers who only tell you what you are good at. Great trainers are the ones who tell you the truth. … I will tell you the truth. “
And as much as Evans will ask of his players, he will ask it himself. In anticipation of head coaching duties, he persuaded the director of Madison Park Academy to hire an assistant sports director to give the department an on-campus presence. Meanwhile, Evans checks out at 1 p.m. and drives over the Bay Bridge to South City to practice and play.
And instead of complaining about the commute, which he says currently takes about 35 minutes, he has embraced it.
“I love the ride. It’s a great time for me to listen to books in the car or to pray, ”said Evans. “Just to think about other things in life than sports. … I knew that this task would make these decisions. … I am very well anchored in my decision because there are many reasons (for the decision).
“I can’t say we can make the playoffs (this season), but I can say that we won’t be blown out, that we will compete and be there in the fourth quarter (able to try to win) that Game).”