By Matt Smith
Wednesday, June 27th, 2012 at 1:23 am in Boys soccer.
After 15 seasons at the helm of the Amador Valley High boys soccer program, Ken Villegas has been let go as head coach.
The move comes on the heels of a 12-12-2 season which saw the Dons reach the North Coast Section Division I quarterfinals.
In his 15 seasons, Amador Valley reached the NCS playoffs 13 times, won a title in 1999 and just as recently as 2008 reached the title game, falling 1-0 to Pittsburg.
Villegas understands that change sometimes needs to be made, and wished the program luck for the future, but said he was caught off guard at the suddenness of the move.
“It wasn’t a good experience because I walked in and found out I was fired,” Villegas said. “I wasn’t given a chance to speak to the parents or the players to try and resolve any issues that were there.”
The Amador Valley administration went through its process to make this decision and decided the scale weighed in favor of not retaining Villegas.
“With all coaching staffs we have a process with parent input, student input and staff observation,” Amador Valley Principal Jim Hansen said. “That’s the general process to usually communicate that to the coach.”
The biggest concern, according to Villegas, is that he wasn’t made aware of the issues and wasn’t given the opportunity to seek a resolution to the issues before being let go.
“I’m not too pleased with how it was handled,” Villegas said. “Seeing as how I was there for 15 years, there should have been a little more investigation. The only people spoken to were the ones that weren’t happy. I felt it wasn’t a really good investigation. A minority group complained and that was it.”
Villegas also said that he was told his style was antiquated, despite the fact that he spends hundreds of hours staying up on current formations, strategies and ways to become a better coach.
Villegas’ former assistant coach, Rob Flores, was also not happy with the way the situation was handled.
“The way Amador handled the termination was completely out of line and did not fall into a school of character that Amador show proudly states,” Flores said. “Accusations were made in the meeting that were completely unfounded including stating the coaching staff bullied players. But yet when request were made (to Hansen) to elaborate or to see if any investigation was done, he refused to answer. This whole issue to replace (Ken) was brought on by a small group of parents who had an agenda and applied enough pressure to have (him) replaced.
“When a decision like this is made, Amador losses, the community of Pleasanton losses, but more important the young men of Amador lose because they will never be taught that there is more to high school soccer than three-plus months out of their school year.”
Hansen did not wish to discuss in depth the process that the school went through, but was grateful for the years of service.
“He has done a wonderful job at Amador Valley over the years,” Hansen said. “He’s created a tradition of excellence, but basically we thought it was time for a change.”
Athletic Director Lou Cesario was also thankful to Villegas.
“Ken dedicated himself to Amador Valley soccer for many years,” Cesario said via email. “We appreciate all he’s done for Amador Valley High School soccer.”
Villegas, despite not being happy about the process, is happy about the years he spent and the experiences he received.
“The experience overall was a great experience, the way I left was not,” Villegas said. “I had a lot of great times with the kids over the years, I enjoyed the camaraderie and being able to coach at the school I graduated from was a joy and an honor.”
Flores, with high praise for Villegas, is also honored to have worked with him, but is certain that Amador Valley is going to miss having him around as the head coach.
“For the past 15 years (he) was the face of Amador soccer,” Flores said. “Ken has always taught the young men that have played for him that high school soccer, and more importantly playing for Amador Valley High School, will be one thing in their life that they will always remember. The honor to represent your school, your peers, your community, and your family each time you step out on the pitch will be unlike anything you have done in the past.
“Ken always treated his players with respect and expected his players to be respectful to each other and to all they came in contact with. He always instilled a strong work ethic in every team he had and preached to his players that the lessons you learn on the field will be life lessons that you will carry with you no matter where you are.”