PREP FOOTBALL: Brad Sparks tackles task of turning around NU’s football program
Nevada Union’s new head football coach doesn’t want to discuss the past. He’s all about the future.
“I’m a believer that there are three speeds,” said Brad Sparks, who was named the varsity head coach Friday. “There’s going backwards, sitting still or going forward. I’m all about going forward.”
Sparks has already begun the arduous task of rebuilding and reviving the once-powerful Miners football program which has fallen on hard times the past five years.
“I plan on building a winning program. Not a team, a program,” Sparks said. “Something we can all be proud of.”
Sparks said the varsity head coaching job was one he would have never sought out if it weren’t for the community’s support during the 2012 season in which his son Owen was not allowed to play after his transfer from Marysville High School to Nevada Union was deemed athletically motivated by the Sac-Joaquin Section.
“I had no intention to ever be a head coach again,” Sparks said. “But, I got to tell you, with my son having to sit out, the response I got from the community was amazing. Their support was unbelievable. That kind of got me thinking, if I was ever a head coach again, this would be the place.”
After stints as a varsity assistant coach, the freshman head coach and head of football operations for NU, Sparks talked with his family and decided it was the right time to be a varsity head coach once again.
“I’m here because I fell in love with this place. Because of how the community reached out to me,” said Sparks, who works as a para educator at NU. “I can’t imagine living or being anywhere else. I love it here. The history of this program means a lot to me, but the history I want to help build means even more.”
Sparks inherits a program that dropped its junior varsity team last season, has just eight varsity wins in the past five seasons and will be switching from the Sierra Foothill League to the newly formed Foothill Valley League.
Nevada Union Athletic Director Jeff Dellis said Sparks is the right man to usher the Miners into their new league.
“We feel Brad is the right guy to move the program forward,” Dellis said. “Brad is a kid magnet… He’s absolutely a players coach. He relates to kids well and his level of experience will serve the kids well.”
Sparks said his main focus is to build quality young men who hate to lose as much as he does.
“It’s less about building these fantastic football players and more about building young men. The football stuff is done as we go,” Sparks said. “My focus is to win and to get these kids on the path to being confident… I believe in them, they know I love them and they know I hate losing. I want guys that hate losing just as bad.”
Sparks said he plans to reinstitute the junior varsity program and expects to field a freshman, junior varsity and varsity team every year he’s at the helm.
“As long as I’m here I will do everything I can to make sure all three levels exist,” he said.
Sparks added building the program back up will take recruiting former players who chose not to play last season, which he has already started doing, as well as building a strong relationship with the Nevada Union Junior Miners program.
Sparks will be holding a player/parent meeting for the varsity and junior varsity teams at Nevada Union’s Science Lecture Hall at 6 p.m. May 11.
RUNNING THE WING-T
The wing-T offense has been a staple of the Miners since 1984 when then head coach Randy Blankenship, a Nevada Union Athletics Hall of Famer, first brought the system to the Miners.
Sparks will continue that tradition, but with his own approach to the offensive scheme.
“I am a wing-T guy,” he said. “I’m going to implement a new style of spread wing-T that hasn’t been done up here.”
Sparks already has his staff in place, mixing some new faces with familiar ones.
Returning varsity coaches include Ernie Flores (running backs), Jason Horne (defensive backs, wide receivers), Shaun Jones (defensive line) and Chad Mason (quarterbacks).
Longtime Lincoln of Stockton and Franklin of Elk Grove coach Jim Rubiales will be joining the staff as defensive coordinator, said Sparks.
Head coach for the junior varsity Miners will be Ty Conway.
Sparks brings more that two decades of coaching experience to the position. He spent 17 years coaching various levels at Marysville High School, including four years as the head varsity coach. He has also held multiple positions with the Nevada Union program dating back to 2012. In 2014, Sparks led the NU freshman team to a 9-1 record and a share of the Sierra Foothill League title.
Sparks is the 11th varsity head coach in Nevada Union football history and the third since 1991, when Dave Humphers took over the program.
“The thing I want to let the community know is that I am not going to embarrass the school, these kids, this program or the community,” Sparks said. “The mentality from here on out is any team, any time and any place. And, I hate to lose.”
To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, call 530-477-4232 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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