CAMPBELL – Taka Sugimoto never sought the spotlight. Still doesn’t, in fact. When she returned a reporter’s call this week, she wondered what it was all about.

It’s about her incredible run as a high school coach, the woman called “Sugi” was told.

“Nobody has to know,” she said, sheepishly.

Jimmy Carter occupied the White House when Sugimoto started coaching junior varsity softball at Leigh High School in 1977.

Five months from her 90th birthday, the run will end Friday when Westmont High, where Sugimoto has logged nearly all of her coaching years, will play host to Andrew Hill in badminton.

Sugimoto is mostly known for leading Westmont’s varsity badminton and junior varsity field hockey teams.

But she also coached some softball and basketball.

“The years just rolled by,” Sugimoto said. “I just kept on doing it because I was having so much fun.”

In 1988, Sugimoto and her late daughter, Alison Takaki, were the subject of a Mercury News story when Alison recruited her mom to coach JV basketball at Blackford High after the previous coach unexpectedly stepped down. Alison, who died last year from Alzheimer’s, was the school’s varsity coach.

“I’m still learning,” Sugimoto told reporter Dave Payne at the time. “But I know enough now that I’m much more comfortable coaching.

“And,” she added with a laugh, “the (head) coach is easy to work with.”

Sugimoto has coached all five of her grandkids. She also coached against her own daughters when they were in high school.

Alison’s daughter, Lynley Takaki, is the one who thought her grandmother was most worthy of public recognition. Lynley coaches, too. She is the girls basketball coach at Lynbrook and was Westmont’s varsity field coach through last fall. She has stepped aside from her field hockey duties because she is pregnant.

Lynley, who won a Central Coast Section basketball championship last June, described her grandmother’s coaching style as “firm but fair.”

“She never yells,” Lynley said. “She really cares about her players and really focuses on the fundamentals, which is why her players are so prepared for the next level. I feel like that is hard to find in a JV coach nowadays. She really looks at the whole picture and what’s going on with each kid.”

Lynley noted that her grandmother has survived breast cancer and a World War II internment camp.

She graduated from UC Berkeley, taught in Richmond and later became a PE teacher at Cupertino.

“I think that led to her coaching sports,” Lynley added.

And …read more

Source:: The Mercury News


‘I can’t believe it’s finally over for her.’ After more than 40 years of service, a Bay Area high school coach is calling it a career

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