After seven years at the helm of Gilroy High football, head
coach Darren Yafai is stepping down.
Gilroy – After seven years at the helm of Gilroy High football, head coach Darren Yafai is stepping down.
Yafai made the decision early in the season and shared it with his assistant coaches but made it official Tuesday when he told his team.
The 37-year-old father of two said it’s time for him to take a break and spend time with his family. He and his wife, Andrea, have two young children, 7-year-old Darrien and 4-year-old Vanessa.
“I’m sure people have some idea but don’t really know that coaching high school varsity football, during the season head coaches don’t see their families a whole lot,” Yafai said. “It’s depressing. You don’t get to see your kids much. You come home for 10 minutes and they say, ‘Daddy, are you staying?'”
Yafai will said he would like to return to Gilroy at some point as an assistant, but for now wants to concentrate on being a history teacher and a “family man.”
“It’s kind of bittersweet,” Yafai said. “I have good memories by far outweighing any tough memories over the past seven years. We’ve always been competitive. We’ve made the CCS playoffs handful of times and made the semifinals.”
His only frustration? Not winning a coveted CCS championship. But Yafai, whose 7-year tenure has been longer than that of any Gilroy head football coach in decades, did lead Gilroy to the program’s first-ever varsity win over Palma during the 2004 season.
Yafai’s football career began as a player at Gilroy High, where he graduated from in 1986. After graduating from Chico State, Yafai took his first assistant coaching job at Hollister 16 years ago. He moved to Merced High for a year before being hired as a history teacher and football assistant at Gilroy in 1991.
Gilroy’s bid for a consecutive trip to the playoffs failed Sunday when the Mustangs lost out on the last at-large bid to the Large School division playoffs in a coin flip with Capuchino and Woodside. All three teams had an equal number of playoff points. Woodside won the flip and got the No. 8 seed. Gilroy finished its season at 5-5.
Yafai said he considered stepping down after last season. But after the Mustangs reached the CCS semifinals, he wanted to give it one more try. Adding to his decision to stay was the fact that this year’s team had seven seniors on its roster that had played varsity since their sophomore years.
“I thought about them,” Yafai said. “It was kind of a unique situation. I thought, let’s see if I can take it one more step.”
Gilroy athletic director and JV football coach Jack Daley, who started at the school at the same time as Yafai, credits the coach with improving the football program by developing the team’s offseason activities, including weightlifting and conditioning programs, team summer camps and retreats.
“I’ve known Darren for a long time. He’s a great man and has (the players’) best interest at heart and has shown that during his tenure as football coach,” Daley said. “He’s done above and beyond what’s required of coaches. He’ll be a hard person to replace and we’ll certainly miss him.”
Daley said the search for a new coach is just beginning. The school must consider candidates already at Gilroy High before going outside the school for a coach. Daley is hoping to hire someone with varsity head coaching experience.
Yafai said he doesn’t think any of the current assistant coaches at Gilroy are interested in the head coaching position.
“I’m not aware of anybody on staff who’s interested in the job,” he said. “I think most of our coaches know what sort of a difficult and hard job it is. Some people think it’s a crazy job to take.”
Daley believes the job will be “attractive” to coaches looking for a head coaching job, citing league strength of the TCAL, the new Garcia-Elder Sports Complex and community support.
Yafai admits he’ll have a tough time not being a part of the team when next season rolls around. But he knows it’s the right move.
“For me to make sure that I continue to do what I can do, I’ve got to put being a history teacher and a family man in front of football for a little bit.”