The student became the master when Tom Fallon was hired as head coach of the Falcon baseball program.
After almost a dozen years as an assistant under two different head coaches, Fallon stepped up to the plate.
Hiring Fallon to lead a team that won two games last season and nine games over the past three seasons was a full circle moment. Fallon played for the Falcons back in the 1980s. And his head coach at the time is now his assistant and the junior varsity coach, Bill Patterson.
“It’s a huge honor to grow up as a player, come through the school and get my chance at being the head coach,” Fallon said.
“He just brought so much enthusiasm and knowledge of the game,” said Fallon of Patterson. “As a baseball player in high school, it elevated everybody on the team.”
South Whidbey baseball has its third head coach in three years. Former head coach Jeff Hodson resigned the position because his work took him off Whidbey Island.
That left South Whidbey High School’s athletic department in a bind, but only a short while. By December, Falcon Athletic Director Scott Mauk had his man in Fallon.
“I’m born and raised on the island,” Fallon said. “Continuity is huge; I’m hoping to be here a long time.”
Continuity was important for Mauk and the future of the program. Falcon baseball hasn’t had a winning season since the mid 2000s. Last year’s two wins came at the end of the season, and South Whidbey finished at the bottom of the Cascade Conference with a 2-15 record.
Trying to put that losing legacy behind them, the new Falcon coaches started with the team’s foundation. From the first day of this season, Fallon gave the Falcons a visual representation of their expectations.
On one face of a brick, he wrote, “Team first,” the program’s new motto. On another face, “Buying in,” “Fundamentals” and “Hustle.”
“We are absolutely living that every day,” Fallon said.
“We preach that not everybody has the same physical talents, but we ask that they give everything they’ve got.
“If you can out hustle the other team, somewhere along a season that’s going to equate to a win.”
With about 25 players registered for baseball, both varsity and junior varsity practice together. Seniors, juniors, sophomores and freshmen hit, throw, catch and run together. It’s a matter of the team that sprints together, wins together, or at least that’s the coaches’ hope.
Convincing kids to put the team above themselves, whether that means less playing time or a new place in the lineup, was paramount for Fallon. That suited his talents and him well, he said.
“I like to think I’m a good motivator,” Fallon said. “That’s the thing I’m really trying to instill in the kids: absolute hustle all the time.”
At least one of the players should give the requisite effort and energy: his son, Trent.
The sophomore played on junior varsity last season and could figure into the varsity rotation this year. It’s the second time Fallon has coached a son at the high school; his oldest son graduated in 2010.
Old adages about coaches favoring their kids are in Fallon’s mind when his sons were on his squads, and it caused him to swing the other way.
“Both of my kids were good at, once we step on the field, I’m not their dad, I’m their coach,” Fallon said.
“I know it’s challenging for both my kids because there’s the possible perception of favoritism. But at the end of the season I always apologize to my sons for being hard on them.”