Bob Ladouceur may be the greatest football coach ever to roam the sidelines—at any level.
Born in Detroit, Michigan, July 3, 1954, Robert Eugene Ladouceur [pronounced LAD-uh-sir] moved west with his family at ten. His father was a hardware salesman and his mother took a job as an elementary school secretary in Danville, California, in the eastern region of the San Francisco Bay Area. Ladouceur attended San Ramon Valley High School, where he was a standout running back and linebacker in football, earning a scholarship to the University of Utah. Disillusioned with the coaching staff and homesick for the Bay Area, he transferred to San Jose State following his freshman year. Upon graduation, Ladouceur studied theology at Saint Mary’s College while helping a friend coach football at Danville’s Monte Vista High School. He also worked briefly as a counselor at a juvenile hall. Watching many of the same kids return over and over, Ladouceur realized he wanted to mold young people before they veered in the wrong direction. At 24 and with no head coaching experience, he was hired by De La Salle High School to fill their varsity head football coaching vacancy.
Founded in 1965, De La Salle is a 1,000 student, all-boys private Roman Catholic secondary school located in Concord, California, about 30 miles northeast of San Francisco. The Lasallian institution’s motto is Les Hommes De Foi—French for “Men of Faith,” and about 99 percent of its graduates go on to college. Prior to Bob Ladouceur’s arrival in 1979, the Spartans had never enjoyed a winning season. He inherited a program that was 17-40-6 and had won only one game the prior year. In his first campaign, De La Salle posted its first winning season in school history. One year later, the Spartans first appeared in the California prep football state rankings. The California Interscholastic Federation [CIF] governs high school sports within the Golden State. Due to its size and population, California does not have singular state football tournaments, operating instead with ten Sections, each with their own championship. De La Salle is a member of the CIF North Coast Section, which encompasses the eastern portion of the Bay Area.
De La Salle won their first CIF North Coast Section title in 1982, during Ladoucer’s fourth season. It was the first of 28 CIF championships he would win. Coach Ladouceur won five California state bowl championships and was three times voted National Coach of the Year. De La Salle—which plays a rugged schedule–has been named National High School champions eleven times and has sent a dozen players to the NFL. Ladouceur coached 34 teams at De La Salle and 20 of them were undefeated. After losing to Pittsburg [CA] High School in the CIF-North Coast championship game in 1991—when future New York Giants wide receiver Amani Toomer was a Spartan senior—De La Salle embarked upon the most impressive winning streak in the history of high school sports. They opened the 1992 season by beating Merced, 34-14, and then reeled off 12 consecutive undefeated seasons. From 1992 to 2004, the Green and Silver won a national-record 151 straight games, more than doubling the previous mark of 72. The streak ended September 4, 2004, with a 39-20 loss to Bellevue [WA] in the Emerald City Kickoff Classic at Seattle’s Qwest Field. “It’s a great accomplishment for the players and coaches,” Ladouceur said after the game, ‘we can’t feel sorry for ourselves, we’ve got another game to prepare for.” De La Salle lost 3 games in 2004 but won the Section title. Between 2005 and 2012, the Spartans won eight straight North Coast Section titles and five state championships, including 2012, when they went 15-0-0. Bob Ladouceur retired following the 2012 season
Bob Ladouceur is the winningest coach in California high school football history, with a record of 399-25-3. His winning percentage of .934 is tops nationally amongst coaches with 200 or more wins. All he ever wanted to do was work with kids. “Wins and losses are not the focus, they are merely outcomes. The emphasis is on brotherhood and teaching each player that there’s someone more important in this world than you.” A devout Catholic, Ladouceur is more cerebral than emotional. Neither dynamic nor charismatic, his idea of a pregame pep talk is, “Don’t clip on the kick return. I don’t want to start at the ten yard line.” De La Salle players and coaches attend chapel together on the day before games, praying and reflecting together. Players write down an expectation or commitment that they plan on making to the team on a card, then reveal the promises on their cards to their teammates. In 2001, future NFL running back Maurice Jones-Drew was flagged for excessive celebration after somersaulting into the end zone during a touchdown run. Afterward, Ladouceur told his players, “We are not a celebrating team.” Mr. Ladouceur retired with 399 wins to take the praise off himself, something he always stressed to his players. He never left the high school level, saying after being approached by Stanford, “College is a job. High school is about teaching and the joy of the game.” Following Ladouceur’s retirement in January 2013, former player Justin Alumbaugh took over the Spartan program, going 14-1 and winning a Section title in his first season. Coach Ladouceur helped by coaching running backs. “The job of a leader is to try to improve someone’s skill set.” In 2001, Mr. Ladouceur was inducted into the National High School Hall of Fame.
For more on Bob Ladouceur and his coaching philosophy, visit: http://www.spartanhood.com/whatisaspartan.htm