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This tightly wound 45-year-old head coach manages to craft championship football teams while working full-time as a probation officer. For the soft-spoken coach both jobs are all about giving his young men an opportunity for a better life so his dedication to Poly football remains unwavering.
Upon entering the 2010 season, his record included 100 wins in nine seasons as Poly’s Head Coach (he has been on the coaching staff for Poly for 20 years). Coach Lara received his degree in Law and Society from the University of California, Santa Barbara.
A former Poly player himself, Coach Lara is a pious man who firmly believes that Poly football can and does change lives. The fact that he has sent dozens of players to the NFL makes it difficult to argue. He is a highly focused, fiercely loyal motivator who takes guff from no one – be it players, fellow coaches, or anyone else who tries to stand in the way of bringing another championship title back to Poly. But Coach Lara’s biggest battle isn’t on the playing field. It’s on the mean streets of Long Beach, California. Lara notes, “The gangs are our biggest battle.”
Keeping his players focused on their long-term goals (college and a career) instead of the immediate cash and potential street cred that comes with drug dealing and gang-banging is a never-ending struggle for hearts and minds. With his wife of 19 years and three children by his side, Coach Lara sees Poly football as a family, one where players and coaches alike “sacrifice not for you but for the guy next to you.”
This year the pressure is especially heavy. Coming off one of one of their most disappointing seasons in recent memory, the team is poised for a return to championship form and has been picked as the number two team in the country. His job is on the line, if he does not redeem himself and his team it could be his last season coaching at Poly.
As if the lofty pre-season expectations weren’t enough, further complicating Coach Lara’s world is the fact that his son Emmanuel is competing for the coveted starting QB position.