by Trent Merfeld
Life is bigger than football. To Cal Poly Head Football Coach Tim Walsh, there is much more to the game of football than what transpires on the field.
In 1972, as a senior quarterback at Serra High School in San Mateo, California, Walsh’s Padres had a game in San Jose. It was that day Walsh said he gained a new perspective on football.
“There was a mini riot at the game. One of our players had his helmet off, and somebody out of the stands took his helmet and wacked him across the head. Then, he was in critical condition and to be honest, he was never the same again. At that moment, I realized that there are a lot of things out there more important than football, and I realized that not everybody’s life skills are on the same level,” Walsh said.
The riot served as a learning experience for Walsh that influenced his coaching philosophy. He has since coached at seven different high schools and colleges, and has gained the reputation as a players’ coach. Walsh said his door is always open, and it is very important to him and his coaching staff that the lines of communication are open.
“Our coaches meet with their players everyday about things other than football. We talk about academics, and where they are in their life and what’s going on. Whether it’s a girlfriend breaking up with them or someone in their family is sick, I want players to be able to drop in and talk about anything that is going on in their life,” said Walsh.
Walsh has always enjoyed communicating and working with young people. More than 30 years ago, Walsh began coaching eight to fourteen-year-old kids at a baseball summer camp. Then, at his first job out of college, Walsh came back to his alma mater Serra High School and coached baseball, basketball, and football. The challenging workload was more than worth it for Walsh, who said his players’ success drives him to coach.
“If you haven’t been in our locker room after a game, its so exciting to see the young players celebrate about how they feel. When you have the opportunity to put in as many hours as we do as players and coaches to that game on Saturday night, it’s an exhilarating feeling when that 60 minutes is up and you’ve won the football game,” said Walsh.
Joe Brum recently participated in Cal Poly’s Pro Day. Click here to see the footage from CPTV.
Walsh enjoys going to women’s basketball games, volleyball games, softball games, and men’s baseball games because he likes to see Cal Poly’s athletes succeed. He said college athletics is a great environment to be around, and has been for his family. But he admits his family has had to make some sacrifices for his career.
“Your family has to have a strong spine to deal with everything. When your kids go to school, other kids know who your dad is, and there’s sometimes a lot of criticism,” Walsh said.
Walsh said it is difficult for his family to live and die by his successes, and he appreciates everything his wife has done for him and the family.
“When your wife is Han Solo for four to five months a year, you need a strong person who is able to cope with everything because of an absentee dad. I remember one day I walked in and said to my wife, ‘I think I can be good at this,’ and she said go for it. I think that’s what you have to have to start with. She was very supportive and understanding from the get-go.”
Walsh said that having a family of his own has helped him deal with his family of 105 football players.
“I think maybe it’s our calling [as coaches] to help young people and educate them on how to live together, and that’s one of the great things in football. In the sport of football you have 105 guys from about 105 different backgrounds economically, socially, and ethnically. We work together for one common cause, and that’s probably why I do it. The young guys from all over realize that their team is their family,” Walsh said.
Walsh said that the education he received at UC Riverside helped him become a good communicator with both his players and coaches.
“One thing I tell all of our young coaches is that I don’t expect them to be me. I expect them to understand my philosophy and work within my philosophy. The most important advice I’ve ever got was ‘you have to be you.’ You have to be who you are,” Walsh said.
Walsh sticks up for his players and coaches. From his experiences as a father and coach, the one thing that jumps out about him is his genuine knowledge for how people operate. Therefore he makes sure his players understand the right way to act.
“We start everything with the word respect, if you can’t respect yourself you cant respect others. I want my players to be respected for who they are, not what they are. Just because they play football they aren’t football players, they are human beings, and I think that’s got to start from the top down,” Walsh said.
Walsh said that one of his goals as a coach is to develop a trust with his players not only for the years that they play for him, but hopefully for the rest of their life.
“The one thing that I can look back at is I have hundreds of players that still use me today as a job reference who I still stay in contact with. So I’ve made hundreds of friends for the rest of my life,” Walsh said. “And that’s something I really hold close to who I am. Although I may walk across campus and somebody may say ‘hi coach’ to me, in reality that’s not who I am, my name is Tim. And I’d rather be remembered for who I am from the human element of who I am.”
Tim Walsh Facts
Favorite Athlete: Gale Sayers.
Favorite Quote or Saying: “You can only be as good as you think you can be.”
Favorite Food: prime rib.
Pick One Drink: “Any diet soda. Whatever is available that’s diet, I drink too much of them, and I’m trying to stop.”
Guilty Pleasure: Thoroughbred Horse Racing.
Pick Three Bands: The Temptations, The Doors, The Doobie Brothers.
Favorite Thing About Cal Poly: The unique history, the area. “You might be able to match it, but it’s tough to beat.”