There's no doubt that Tim Baker is a family man.
He's preached that concept of family – unification, trust, love – throughout his years as a coach and as a teacher.
And when he made the decision to leave the Molalla football program after winning the league title in 2006, he had to choose between his two families: the one on the football field, and the one off of it.
Nobody is going to question whether Baker made the right choice or not, but over the years, that itch to get back into head coaching has begun to get stronger, and he now believes he and his family are at the point in their lives where he can return to his passion.
"It came at a time where we just had a very successful season, kind of on top and in a pretty good place, but as I'm kind of putting things away for the offseason … I'm looking around and my kids … are starting to do stuff, and I realized that I'm not home a whole lot," Baker said. "Even though this is a fall sport and you think 'Well, you just go for four months,' it's a year-long obligation."
"I just realized I wasn't home a whole lot, and I'm missing an integral part of my children's lives," Baker said. His son, Cale was six at the time and his daughter, Sammie was two.
"I didn't want to miss out; I really preach family and that's how I like to think I run a team – we're a family, we're watching gout for each other – but I wasn't paying attention as I should have as a father to my own family."
Now, Sammie is in sixth grade and Cale is finishing up his sophomore year, and Baker feels that he's still able to remain a part of their lives and activities while pursuing his own passion for coaching.
"The kids are older, they're off – my son is driving now and he's got his whole high school thing in front of him and possibly college, and they're off doing their own things, they don't need dad in their life as much as they did ten years ago, so it kind of freed me up to do things and after last football season, my wife (Sheri) and I discussed it and I said 'I really want to get back to head coaching,' and she was really supportive and we talked about it as a family and both kids were supportive of it, and this was a good time to do it."
Baker said his desire to find a role as a head coach coincided well with the position opening up at MHS, and he thought the timing felt almost like fate.
"I'm very lucky to be able to return to a place I care about ten years later and hopefully pick up kind of where I left off even though it's not the same group of kids, and to continue my vision and with Grant [Boustead]'s vision," Baker said. "He left the program in a very good spot."
And while Molalla's coaches since Baker left in 2006 had fairly short tenures, Baker said he's ready to devote 10 to 15 years to the program, or for as long as they'll have him.
"I'm looking at this to be my final stop, I'm not planning to go anywhere else and, God willing, nothing rears its ugly head and forces me to step away, but I want to remain with the program for the next 10 to 15 years and I want to build something," Baker said.
"I think Molalla has always had this kind of provincial attitude especially when it comes to sports, where we play well every few years, we get a league title, but there's always Gladstone or Sisters or whoever, and I want the kids to start believing that we are contenders for the state title every year. I want that in their head, I want the people to start believing that we'll be in the upper echelon of 4A football, and getting into that mindset is the first step, then obviously putting in the system and working towards it, but they have to believe."
The change in developing that championship attitude doesn't come right away. It's built from the ground up through a system that fosters growth and dedication all the way down to the youth level leading up to high school, which includes having multiple teams for different skill levels that have their own coaches, goals, and identities. And while the student-athletes need to believe in themselves and the program, they also need coaches that believe in them, and that have long-term goals.
"I think Grant has done a great job of putting this program where it is now; they've been above .500 the last couple years, they won the league title … he has the kids going in the right direction, but it does start at the youth level," Baker said. "I haven't met with the youth coaches yet, but so they know the basics of our system and they're running the basics and anytime if I went down to a field and I say 'I want you to run jet sweep,' I want them to be able to line up, I want them to be in good stances, I want to see good footwork coming out of the snap, and being able to run," he said.
"And by the time they get to high school, I want them to have a good basis of our system so I'm not having to re-teach everything."
Baker also emphasized the need to be in the weight room; as nutrition and training regimens advance, players get bigger, faster, and stronger.
"That was something I experienced probably 18 years ago when I started coaching," Baker said. "We weren't strong enough, and we started the weight room and got the kids in there, but we have to have a commitment from the kids to be in the weight room on a regular basis. So physically and mentally, that's the way we have to be."
Baker held a team meeting last week with the players and their parents to introduce himself and become acquainted with everyone, and he said he was "pleasantly surprised" by the turnout.
"I thought we'd get a good number of kids there, and I know Molalla's numbers have been lower than they have in the past, but it looked like there was a strong number of kids, not only incoming freshmen but all the way up to seniors, and they were there to meet me."
"I was really impressed by something you don't see from kids every day – most every one of them came up to me after the meeting, shook my hand, and introduced themselves, and that's something you don't see every day from today's young people," he said. "I was very impressed that they had that sort of character already built; the parents were very nice, I know a lot of them were very upset by Grant leaving, but they were very accepting of the new coach and seemed very excited to get started."
Baker said even though it's the first year of the program under a new coach, his ambitions aren't any lower than they would be any other season.
"My goal every year is to win a league title," he said. "Another goal is I'd like to have is three strong teams (Varsity, JV, Freshman); I know Molalla has only had two teams in the past, but I'd like to see numbers improve this year … it does start with the incoming freshmen and that's going to be kind of the base to build up the numbers."
"I want the kids to continue the emphasis on family and caring about each other, the older players taking the younger players under their wing and showing them how it's done; I want to see good leadership skills expressed by the players on the field and in the classroom," Baker said.
When asked about his coaching style, Baker said his identity and philosophy as a coach correlate with that of being an educator, on and off the field.
"I see mistakes as learning opportunities … there's going to be a lot of hiccups installing a new offense and defense, but that's OK, I figure my offense and terminology is pretty easy to learn … I think the kids will be familiar with what they've done in the past," Baker said.
This season, Baker said he's initially most excited for getting to know his players.
"I've been a teacher and a coach for 18 years, I really love being a teacher," he said. "And I love getting to know these guys and being a part of their lives not just as a coach but getting to know them as people; I want them to trust me and rely on me."
"I'm really excited about this upcoming season and I hope the kids are as well because I think we're going to be able to do a lot of fun things," he said.
"I want to get to a point where the whole town turns out to support these kids because they work their butts off – through daily doubles, through weeks of practice to get ready for this game, and we're going to put on a show for them," he said.
Baker said he also hopes to establish some sort of football-only booster club.
"I know all the sports programs have to do a lot of fundraising, and by having a football-only booster club to be able to get new equipment – just football game balls are going to cost me close to $1,000 this year, which is crazy," Baker said. "And just maybe having a little extra revenue to get the kids what they need and continue to make this a first-class program … but really I envision having a booster club to start looking in the short term for how can we turf Heckard Field."
"I remember standing in six inches of mud out there, and I know the groundskeepers do their very best to prepare, but you can't do a lot when it dumps buckets of rain on you," he said. "But it would be nice to have turf down there and maybe having something like [a booster club for football] would help move that forward, get people from the community in the booster club who have better ideas than I do to move forward on something like that."
Finally, Baker said he wants to encourage his players to participate in other activities at school.
"I want kids to enjoy their high school experience; don't just settle in on one sport, go join clubs, if you want to be in choir, be in choir," he said. "High school is going to go by quickly and you don't want to look back and say 'Why didn't I do that?'"
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