It took Shaun Bavaro a while, but after 16 years of numerous stints as a coach and teacher throughout various Oregon school districts, the Brookings-Harbor High class of 2001 graduate has made his return home as the high school’s newest PE teacher and assistant football coach.
“I’ve always been excited about wherever I am, and when this opportunity opened I was thinking of coming back,”said Bavaro, who was an All Far-West League first team selection as a senior. “Not too many can say that they get to do what they love in their hometown; that was really the pulling factor.”
Bavaro first learned of the job opening last fall, when he was working as a teacher and coach at Woodburn High. Although Bavaro was familiar with Brookings as a former graduate, he did not rest on his laurels, and proactively went about researching and learning as much he could about the state of affairs at his ala mater.
“He just has a lot of quality experience. He comes highly recommended; he has built good relationships around the state in other communities and people know him,” said BHHS athletic director Buell Gonzalez Jr. “He comes across as very genuine, he’s competitive, and a hard worker who is in it for the kids.
“He’s exactly the individual that you’d want teaching your kids.”
Bavaro, who is now in his 15th year of coaching, said the most rewarding part of the process is cultivating relationships with the student-athletes.
“That’s the great thing about coaching and teaching: it’s the relationship you build with kids,” Bavaro said. “One of my old quarterbacks in Central High, he just got married last weekend. It’s really crazy to see that — that’s the best thing about it, and why I joined teaching and coaching. It’s the relationships with these students and athletes.”
As the newest member of the BHHS football coaching staff, Bavaro will look to help turn around a program that has only tallied three wins in the last two seasons— a situation that runs parallel to his stint at Woodburn High.
“We were changing around a program that hadn’t won a football game in two to three years, hasn’t won a homecoming game in 10 years, we were making small miracles,” Bavaro said. “Not on the scoreboard, but changing the DNA of the program.”
On the surface, the team did show modest signs of improvement through a trio of wins. But the catalyst for change in a program often takes place behind the scenes and might not bear fruit until several years later. For the coaching staff at Woodburn High, that meant higher expectations for the team, holding the kids to those expectations, and implementing a disciplined, structured schedule of practice and routines.
“The biggest thing was changing the culture of expectations, and over the two years I was there,” Bavaro said. “From the outside, people can see we’ve won three games, but what people can’t see is that graduation rates have gone up, discipline problems have gone down, and the population or number of people in the program has gone up.”
Describing himself as a “firm believer in education-based athletics,” Bavaro’s approach is a multifaceted one that also entails building wholesome students off the field.
“It boils down to expectations, continuity and structures and routines,” Bavaro said. “(That’s without) even talking about football play or being in the weightroom. That’s all building core characteristics for kids to be good human beings in society.”
According to Bavaro, the lifeline to any athletic program that develops well-rounded children lies in a youth program, which he plans on looking into and becoming involved with in the upcoming school year.
“(A youth program) is as important as any other program, any athletic program, not even in sports, in arts and music too,” Bavaro said. “If you’ve seen places that have been successful at the top, if you peel back the layers, they have successful programs in place for music and art and sports.
“The (youth programs) gets those kids involved, it keeps them out of trouble, and typically, statistics have shown that kids involved in activities and athletics tend to do really good in what we’re here for, which is an education; they usually have better grades.”
For Bavaro, the opportunity to teach at BHHS is one that has brought his career full circle— not just on account of his homecoming, but for the opportunity to mentor others, like those who did the same for him not so long ago.
“It’s all about the kids for me. I’m just a teacher, a dadand a coach.”