2017-06-16 / Sports

Like father, like daughters

Camarillo’s Jack Willard inspires his daughters to take up coaching
Jonathan Andrade


FAMILY—Camarillo High football head coach Jack Willard, second from left, has inspired his daughters, from left, Payton, Delaney and Hallie. Payton graduates from Camarillo today; Delaney is a Scorpion softball assistant; and Hallie is head coach of Moorpark’s girls’ volleyball team. 
RICHARD GILLARD/Acorn Newspapers FAMILY—Camarillo High football head coach Jack Willard, second from left, has inspired his daughters, from left, Payton, Delaney and Hallie. Payton graduates from Camarillo today; Delaney is a Scorpion softball assistant; and Hallie is head coach of Moorpark’s girls’ volleyball team. RICHARD GILLARD/Acorn Newspapers Anyone familiar with prep sports in Acorn country the past 30 years knows Jack Willard.

The longtime coach and teacher, who’s currently head coach of Camarillo High’s football team and lead assistant for the Scorpion softball squad, had coaching stints at Newbury Park, Rio Mesa and Channel Islands.

Willard, a 1976 Camarillo grad who starred on the baseball diamond for Cal Lutheran, won CIF-Southern Section titles while guiding Camarillo’s softball team in 2011 and the school’s football juggernaut in 2015.

He used to dip ice cream cones at Thrifty drug store and log hours at the 3M plant in Camarillo, but coaching is his passion.

The 59-year-old is a proven winner, but he’s not the only Willard calling the shots from the sidelines or dugout.

One of the area’s most beloved leaders inspired his three daughters, Delaney, Hallie and Payton, to try coaching.

“It’s something they kind of gravitated towards,” Jack Willard said. “I guess if I was a dirt bike rider, they might be riding dirt bikes.”

The Willard daughters aren’t off in the desert hitting jumps like members of the Metal Mulisha. They’re most comfortable roaming the sidelines and dugouts as the next generation of Willard coaches.

Delaney Willard, a 2008 Camarillo graduate who played softball for her father in high school, excelled on the diamond as an outfielder for Brigham Young University’s softball team. She earned Western Athletic Conference player of the year honors in 2012 before jumping into the world of coaching.

The 27-year-old got her first coaching gig as a graduate assistant at BYU before taking the head coaching job at Notre Dame of Maryland, a Division III program.

In typical Willard fashion, Delaney helped set a Notre Dame record for wins in a season in 2014.

She left the collegiate ranks after one season to return to Camarillo, joining her father on current skipper Nichole Pinedo’s staff. She’s been coaching with the Scorpions the past three springs.

“It was kind of nice to coach with him because I kind of always wanted that to happen,” Delaney said. “Growing up, I thought it’d be so much fun.”

She was right. The Willards helped the Scorpions capture a CIF-Southern Section Division 2 championship this spring.

Delaney, who is head coach of the frosh-soph squad, said sharing the varsity dugout with her father has been a memorable experience.

“I just sit in the dugout and try to learn everything from him coaching at third,” she said. “I take everything I learn at practice and do it with the frosh-soph team.”

Jack Willard said his daughter is ahead of the game when it comes to coaching.

“She’s much more patient than I was at her age,” he said. “We all evolve over time. I think her evolution as a coach has come more quickly than mine.”

Hallie Willard found her passion for coaching on the volleyball court.

The 23-year-old, who graduated from Camarillo in 2011, played opposite hitter at Moorpark College before a back injury ended her playing career prematurely.

While her playing days were coming to an end, her coaching career was just beginning to blossom.

She got her first taste of coaching at 17, with the Rincon Volleyball Club.

“From then, I knew it was going to be my life,” Hallie said. “It was sort of meant to be.”

Hallie spent the next two seasons coaching with the California Heat Volleyball Club before finding her home with the Reef Volleyball Club.

She assisted at Moorpark High for three years before taking over the program last year.

Jack Willard was happy for Hallie’s promotion, but he was still nervous.

“I was a little bit worried just because 22 is so close to 18,” he said. “She’s still got a lot of things to learn about how to interact with people who are just a little bit younger than her and still have to interact with adults that are raising these kids.

“I feel like she has a pretty good handle on all that, but I was also concerned about her being that young and being in charge of three programs there.”

Hallie shared her dad’s concerns.

“It was nerve-wracking, but he helped me through everything,” she said of her father. “From square one, he kind of laid it out for me. I couldn’t have done it without him.”

She said she learned what’s truly important about being a coach from her father.

“We do it because we love it,” Hallie said. “We love teaching. We don’t do it for the money or the glory. We do it because we want to make the kids better. We want to impact somebody’s life.”

Payton Willard, a Camarillo High senior, got her first taste of the world of coaching while roaming the sidelines of football games and practices at age 7. The 17-year-old, who coached two seasons of youth volleyball for the Cal Heat, was like an unofficial assistant coach on the gridiron.

“I went to every single game,” Payton said. “I was totally into it.”

“For some reason she gravitated toward football,” Jack Willard said of Payton. “She’s been kind of my right-hand person for 10 years or so. She charts our plays on defense and keeps track of things for me so after the game I can look at that and watch our film together.”

Payton, who wants to study cosmetology after graduating from high school today, said she enjoyed sharing time on the sideline with her dad but admitted she doesn’t believe coaching is in her future.

She still gained new appreciation for the work her father’s done for the past three decades.

“He puts in a lot of time and a lot of effort that not too many people see,” Payton said. “He works really, really hard, and he loves what he does. It’s inspiring to love what you do for so long.”

The Willard daughters have nothing but admiration for their father, and they’re constantly picking his brain to try to learn more about the secrets to his success in getting teenagers to try their hardest.

“I strive to be like him,” Delaney said. “I don’t know if I’ll ever reach that, but I want to be the best coach I can be.”

Jack Willard, who will celebrate his 30th wedding anniversary with his wife, Tina, in July 2018, credited his wife for always standing by his side.

“There hasn’t ever been a moment where she has asked me to put aside some coaching thing,” he said. “I’ve been a whole lot more selfish in terms of trying to be involved in programs. She’s been a whole lot more patient in terms of letting me do those things. I’m pretty lucky.”

Willard spoke lovingly of his daughters. He’s proud that they’re following in his footsteps while carving their own paths.

Coaching won’t make his daughters millionaires, but Jack Willard said influencing and inspiring youngsters is priceless.

“Watching our softball kids win the CIF championship was neat,” he said. “When you reflect back on it, looking at all the hard work they put in to win that last game, and watch those kids celebrate, there’s really nothing better than that.”

Email Jonathan Andrade at jandrade@theacorn.com.

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