Originally published July 26 in the Bakersfield Record.
By Gene Garaygordobil
Most people know Casey Quinn as the head football coach at McFarland High School.
But entering his second season leading the Cougar program, he talks more about what’s happening off the field than what he expects in his inaugural season in the South Sequoia League. Like the K-12 physical education program he is helping to implement as a PE teacher in the McFarland Unified School District.
Last year, Quinn spent time working at all three sites within the district, putting in the more formal grade-level PE lesson plans, said Dr. Valerie Park, the district’s chief academic officer.
“Instead of free play for PE, we have new lessons that incorporate PE standards, healthy habits, getting exercise and enjoying physical activity,” Park said. “Instead of just playing kickball, we make sure the students stretch and warm up correctly. They are learning how to play soccer and basketball, as opposed to just kicking the ball around.”
Quinn admits McFarland might be a smaller stage than the Delano or Fresno area schools where he coached previously, but the district leadership cannot be matched in the northern Kern community.
“We are getting support from everyone, even the town,” Quinn said. “I think that is strong.”
Quinn spent 2014 and 2015 leading the Cesar Chavez High School football program in Delano. The following year, he went further north, taking the head coaching job at Clovis North High School.
But despite the wins and the playoffs, he was missing something much more important: family.
“Family comes first,” Quinn said. “And I got into teaching to teach.”
His students range from elementary school to high school in McFarland. The district has just recently implemented elementary-grade sports programs, and it only had a limited offering of junior high sports.
That tends to create high school athletes with very little team sports experience, especially football. Last year’s varsity team had about 30 players, 18 of them were in their first year on varsity. And 12 of those had never played organized football, Quinn said. Respectfully, the varsity team went 3-7.
“We are applying what we did last year and evolving,” he said.
Football players must also play at least one other sport, too.
Because the district has outgrown its current high school campus, Quinn has helped create a weight room at the middle school campus. The football team also uses fields at the middle school to run practice drills.
Justin Derrick, vice principal of academics, spent several years as the district’s assistant principal in charge of athletics. He admits they need a new high school campus, but past school bonds narrowly failed to pass by voters. Although sports needs more space, the No. 1 need is classrooms.
The district is currently landlocked at the current campus. In what was once the entire football field, the district used a fourth for the new field, a quarter for parking, added a student quad area for eating and the other space will be for a new two-story building that will add 10 classrooms.
There is also a plan for a multipurpose room to be used as a cafeteria. The district hopes to break ground in November that will include an area for both the band and the choir, along with an outside amphitheater.
They will also work on an athletic facility, that will eventually include two practice fields, two softball fields, baseball fields, tennis courts and another concession stand, Derrick said.
“We need more classroom space because our main focus is our kids’ education. We have a lot of dual-enrollment classes and have an eighth period that (Bakersfield College) is hosting,” he said. “We are doing new updates to our welding facility. And we are really moving up on giving our kids what they deserve.”
“Our school board is focused on student achievement, and they are doing a great job,” Derrick added.
Derrick also helped push McFarland’s move from the East Sequoia League to the SSL this year. Another benefit from changing leagues was the monetary savings in travel costs, which averaged one hour and 45 minutes to league games. It was enough to create freshmen sports in some high school sports, he added.
Despite having quite a bit of success in McFarland High sports, football continued to struggle.
“We needed to make a move and try to find someone to protect and prepare our players to compete,” Derrick said. “We reached out to coach Quinn last year and we were able to bring him here.”
Quinn’s wife, Angela Carbajal Quinn, is from the area, he said, “so it was really a family decision.”
“He likes the kids we have here,” Derrick said of Quinn. “And they value people who care about them, who are willing to help them improve and who dedicate their time to them.”
Quinn thanks the McFarland district for providing resources for academics and athletics.
It allows him to teach physical education to not only his players but all students within the K-12 grades.
“We also help out other sports programs, improve school spirit and help them thrive academically,” he said “That’s why I am in McFarland.”
Quinn keeps his practices to under two hours, which includes lifting, conditioning and drills. No wasted time standing around for players; instead, they are constantly moving.
“Last year, we had about 80 guys come out for football and about half struggled with conditioning,” he said. “This year, we had about 80 and 90 percent were able to make expectations.”
Quinn was the head track coach last year and assistant wrestling coach. He encourages those he coaches to come out and work out with the football team, even female track athletes, he said.
Grade-point average is also important to Quinn. Before he got to McFarland, the GPA for athletes was 2.2 — last in the valley.
Last year, that GPA went to 3.2 and was in the top 10 in schools.
“Our coaching staff takes pride in teaching life skills in football,” Quinn said.