Sitting behind a desk covered in piles of papers, Scott Kennedy looks more like an Army guy than a soccer coach. He has a buzz cut, a focused stare, and he isn’t afraid to yell at anyone who walks into his office. His tough love works. In the eight years he’s coached the soccer team, only two teenagers have failed to graduate.
“He’s very strict but that’s why we’re a good team,” soccer player Manuel Cruz says adding that if one player is slow, the coach makes the entire team run. “He’s a good coach.”
The 41-year-old coach wastes no time. Every free minute is used to the fullest, maybe something he learned during his seven and half years as a Marine.
“It probably shows a little,” Kennedy laughs referring to being an ex-Marine. “The thing is,” he says, “I was like this before.”
In the few minutes before he has to leave for the first in the best-of-three Transbay soccer series, he chats with students in the room doing Math and ESL homework, fills out payroll paperwork for other Mission High coaches, picks up a few phone calls and packs drinks and snacks to bring to the game.
When he was a student in criminal justice and psychology at San Francisco State University, Kennedy saw himself working as a probation officer. Instead, he took a job as community liaison at Mission High 13 years ago and worked with students who had juvenile and attendance problems.
A knock at the door makes Kennedy look up long enough to ask one of the students to go open it. The athletic director is also the boys’ soccer coach, a physical education teacher, and most days he says, he’s the students’ baby-sitter.
“I’m not your mommy,” Kennedy yells to Francisco Figueroa, one of his soccer players, who says he’s lost his sneakers. “Well don’t just stand there, find them. Sooner or later, you’re going to have to make decisions on your own, why not start now?”
Figueroa has no male figure in his life, Kennedy explains later, and his mother does everything for him.
Earlier, a student who got in trouble for not doing an assignment walks into the office.
“What do you expect me to do,” Kennedy says to the student as he sits down, “touch you with some great words of wisdom now?”
Slouched on a chair, the student doesn’t answer.
Awards for coach of the year sit on shelves in the back of his office, next to Manchester United posters and framed team photos.
“You gotta know some of that math, it’s important,” Kennedy yells to the student, who replies that the only math he needs to know are how to count dollar bills.
After signing the student’s pass, he walks out of school and gets into his Honda Civic hybrid. Wait. His license plate holder reads, “Have a grateful day.” Next to the saying are the Grateful Dead dancing bears. The ex-Marine is a fan.
“If I don’t have something to vent, I’m going to end up killing somebody,” Kennedy laughs.
As he drives around the corner, he spots two students ditching class.
“Dude what are you doing?” he yells. “This fucking day is unfolding like shit, excuse my language,” he says as he drives away.
“People think it’s so easy to be a coach but it’s not,” he says.
The best part is when students come back and thank him, after they’ve graduated, Kennedy says.
“They say I get why we did that, that’s really great,” he says, smiling.
On the parking lot next to the field, Jose Gallardo-Macias, a soccer player, is pulling on his shin guards for his game against Fremont High. “He has a lot of rules but it’s all for the best,” says Gallardo-Macias, and then he’s up. It’s the coach.
“You want to hurry up and let’s go,” Kennedy yells, as his soccer players head to the field to warm up.