After spending two seasons as Defensive Coordinator with the Piedmont Varsity football team, James Holan was named the 21st Head Football Coach at Piedmont High School. In his first season, the Highlanders currently sit at 6-2 and are poised for another play-off run.
A couple days ago I had a chance to sit down with Coach Holan to discuss the keys to gridiron success at Piedmont and formally introduce our fans to a wonderful coach, who is putting a solid football program in place that also prepares his Highlander players for future success.
Q: For our fan’s who don’t know your story, what was some of your prior coaching experience before you were named Piedmont’s new head football coach at the beginning of this season?
“For the fans who don’t know my story, or my prior coaching and playing experience and such, I’ve been here now for the last three years when we rebooted the program with coach Coats back in 2013. My first two years here I served as defensive coordinator and before that I was down in San Diego for 4 ½ years at Mission Hills High School, where I was the non-play calling Varsity offensive coordinator, offensive line and tight ends coach. I was also co-head coach and play caller on junior varsity. The year before I moved to San Diego, I coached at College of Marin for one year, which happened to be the last year they had their football program. Prior to coaching I played at Linfield College where we won the National Championship in 2004 and I played my high school ball at Tamalpias high school in Mill Valley.”
Q. It’s October 28th and while we are conducting this interview before practice, the players are in the weight room. Can you share a little bit about the work the kids put forth for this season.
“Probably one of the biggest things as far as our turnaround the last three years and trying to work to become a consistent program that is in the playoffs every year and competing for a chance to go win a section or league title, is implementing a weight training program. It’s a year round strength and conditioning program that allows our kids to get as strong as they possibly can. We aren’t telling our guys to put on weight or get bigger, we’re asking them to become more explosive and stronger regardless of what their body type is, or what position they play. We always want to be the strongest team on the field.”
Q: What do you notice about the way this team plays, that is a direct result of the strength program?
“Some of the biggest things that stick out to me about this team and the way they play. . . First off, this is a team that shows tremendous resilience. There’ve been multiple cases were we’ve been down or we’ve been out or guys have been missing due to injury or guys have gone out during the week in practice and every time something like that has happened, somebody else has stepped up and been there for their teammates and made sure they can get the job done. I think there’s a direct correlation with our weight room and our weight program, and the fact that if starter gets hurt we know the next guy going in has put in his time in the weight room, that his strength level is there that he’s a guy we can trust and count on because he’s been there all off-season with us. And obviously just over the course of the three years since I’ve been here, you’ve seen our players develop and grow in a physical manner and they look less like boys and more like men now.”
Q: Coaching a team requires good assistant coaches, what do you look for in an assistant coach?
The biggest thing I’m looking for in coaches? We want to have guys we can trust, who always can have the kids best interest in mind and who are going do their best to get the kids not only ready for football, but ready for life in general. We want them to be trustworthy guys who we know are doing the right thing and setting great examples for these young men and making them better football players every day. I firmly believe that with building staff and developing coaches it starts with the person because all the X’s and O’s and technique and all that stuff, we can teach. But being a trustworthy person, a guy with high morals that’s not necessarily something we can teach an adult, so we look for great people.
Q: What gives you the most satisfaction as a coach?
“Besides winning the most satisfaction I get as a coach is when kids have “that moment” and what I mean by that moment, is when you’ve been working on something with a kid for maybe one practice or one week or the whole season, but it’s something you been working and working and working on and at that moment it clicks for that guy. When they do it right and have that “AH-HA” moment, for me really that’s one of the most satisfying things as a coach. Also, I just love seeing the guys when they come back after they’ve graduated and been through our program. They’re off to college and growing up into fine young men and it’s great to have those guys come back, shake our hands and thank us for being hard on them or that we did know what we are talking about (laugh), really just seeing where they are going in life.”
Q: There is a ring you wear on a necklace during games, what’s the story?
“The ring I wear on my shoestring around my neck is the national championship ring from 2004 that we won at Linfield. It doesn’t really fit on my finger anymore and it’s kind of bent from the times I was wearing it, so I feel the easiest way to keep track of it is to have it tied up on a shoelace. I put my little Jim Harbaugh sharpie on there so I’m all set to go for games.
I’ve worn it for just about every game I’ve ever coached but there’s been times I forgotten it, and thank God I’m not a super superstitious guy otherwise it would’ve caused me some issues.
Funny story, I was coaching in San Diego at Mission Hills and same deal, I would wear it around my neck as a necklace on one of those beaded chains. Well, after playing Vista High School we got back to our high school and I didn’t notice until after one of my offensive linemen brought it to me that my ring was missing. He and his parents we’re taking some photos after the game and they found my ring on the field. They knew it was mine because they seen me wearing it around, but I was super lucky and it’s one of those things; I’ve always had opportunities to lose it but somehow it always comes back to me. It doesn’t look as nice but I got it tied on my shoelace and its not going anywhere.”
Q: With the way the team is playing things look good for another playoff berth. How does making the playoffs year after year help build a program?
“One of the things we set out to do when got here three years ago was to start earning some respect and I think that every year we make the playoffs and continue to win games in the playoffs, we earn a little bit more respect in this community and in the Bay Area football scene. But I think the bigger thing on top of that is that this has become the expectation for these young men; that we are going to make the playoffs and make a run. That’s what playing this game is all about. We all love to go out and run, tackle, throw and catch, but at the end of the day we’re competing to be champions and be the best we can possibly be. So, making the playoffs allows us that opportunity.”