He exudes enthusiasm.
Fans can hear his words of encouragement from the far side of a crowded track meet.
That beacon you thought was shining in the distance is really the smile of this guy — a 55-year-old teacher who re-energizes with each new student.
If you’ve been around Davis schools, you already know this man. If not, it’s time you met Leo Sacramento …
“I just love it when the kids give it their best,” Sacramento explains. “When they perform to their and my expectations … when they’re excited about that effort. There’s nothing like it.”
Sacramento has been the Davis High jumps coach for 11 years. He is a physical education instructor at Holmes Junior High, who has been in local schools since 2001.
The Union City native sat down and chatted with The Enterprise before the Blue Devils’ final tune-up for this week’s Sac-Joaquin Section Division I meet. Not surprisingly, he was a fountain of positive energy.
“We always strive to give it our best,” the coach says of the area track finals. “I think we have a good chance to win both (boys and girls divisions). We have the athletes, we have the attitude. These kids work hard.”
To wit, in the first day of competition one of Sacramento’s best pupils — junior Kyle Clancy — leaped to a section title in the long jump (22-11.5).
Growing up in the East Bay, Sacramento was the youngest of five children. He excelled in track at Logan High (Union City) and Chabot College before being the go-to long jump and triple jump guy at then-Cal State Hayward.
A torn hamstring ended Sacramento’s senior season, but not before he set personal bests of 24-1/4 in the long jump and 49-10 1/2 in the triple jump.
“I was OK,” the coach says with a laugh — masking the fact that both efforts still would have been top 10 jumps in most 2014 collegiate meets.
“He is one of the best coaches I’ve ever had,” 2011 DHS graduate Ian Rock reports.
Not faint praise, considering Rock set a school record in winning the regional Masters title with a long jump of 23-7 3/4 and has evolved into one of the Atlantic Coast Conference’s top heptathlon competitors. Rock is a junior at Duke.
“He is great at teaching technique and his emotional and mental reinforcement is really good,” Rock continues via phone from North Carolina.
Rock — and other former and current athletes — note that Sacramento provides a framework from which each student can excel: “He helps you see your potential, and helps you get there … but it’s up to you.”
Sacramento and his wife Karen came to Davis in 2001. The coach broke in at Emerson before moving on to Holmes two years later.
His kids are accomplished athletes in their own rights.
Chelsea, 18, is a DHS senior who ran track before focusing on volleyball. Whitney is a two-sport sophomore and sons Christian, 10, and Jordan, 9, are Birch Lane students who are focused at the moment on Davis Little League.
Sacramento has coached youth softball and soccer for his daughters’ teams, but has yet to dabble in baseball.
“Not a lot of time outside of school for other things in the spring,” points out Sacramento, adding that spending time with his family and friends is a priority when he’s away from daily responsibilities.
Golf is another pursuit, but his rounds are few and far between.
Asked if he had a handicap, Sacramento laughed again, then answered:
“Yeah. The person holding the club. I hit it, but I don’t play enough to be good or have a handicap.”
Blue Devil track and field head coach Spencer Elliott has assembled a brilliant staff, one in which Sacramento plays a key role.
“He’s enthusiastic, full of energy and loud,” Elliott says of his colleague. “He loves the athletes, and they love him. I trust him completely because I know we share the same competitive philosophy — and I know he has the athletes’ best interests in mind.”
Elliott goes on to say Sacramento “has high expectations … and a no-nonsense way of communicating with them.”
“He’s done an incredible job with the jumpers. We’ve had plenty of school records and top five marks in the (region),” adds Elliott, a former UC Davis sprinter who began coaching at DHS the same year as Sacramento.
Former Devil Jenna Strack is about to graduate from Cal Poly. She remembers Sacramento’s influence …
“He wasn’t just a coach. He was like a father out there,” the talented long jumper remembers. “He pushed you. But he wanted what was best for you. He was always there for me. I was lucky to have him as a coach.”
The cool thing about Blue Devil track and field?
“Ninety percent of the kids are out here because they wanted to get their own best times or distances,” Sacramento explains. “They want to be around the team, do their best and have a good time.
“It’s always positive. There’s never been a year that (the kids) didn’t accomplish what we all thought we could do.
“I just love the enthusiasm. I love when they get things right. Love that ‘Ah-ha!’ moment — ‘Oh, this is how we do it!’ ”
Notes: With a smile, Elliott says he tries to stay away from Sacramento when at important track meets: “If we try to walk across the stadium, we bump into too many people he knows. I can’t get any coaching done.” … Sacramento on the Devil track-and-field coaching crew: “I’m honored to be on this staff because of all the knowledge and experience we have. That goes a long way teaching our kids how to prepare and be ready to compete. I wish I had the formula of (distance coach) Bill Gregg, who gets THE MOST out of his kids.”
— Reach Bruce Gallaudet at [email protected] or 530-320-4456.