Memorial service Sunday for Skip Mohatt, long-time Amador Valley High teacher
Led school's championship 'We the People,' varsity basketball teams
A memorial service was held at 1 p.m. Sunday for long-time Amador Valley High School teacher and coach Everett (Skip) Mohatt, who died Nov. 21, 2008 in Auburn, where he had lived with his wife Joyce since retiring in 1996. He was 74.
Paul Mitchell (AHS71 Alumni)I was unable to attend Skip Mohatt’s memorial service in the AVHS gymnasium; if I had been able to attend and I was asked to speak, this what I would have said… Welcome, everyone, to “Skip Mohatt Gymnasium.” Although that name for this building is accurate (it’s what Amador students named this gym many years ago) the name is not quite correct. You are actually sitting in “Skip Mohatt’s largest classroom.” Oh, he also had classrooms on campus where he taught Social Studies, but this spot was where he taught his athletic students the most important subject he was born to teach. That classroom subject was “Life.” Teaching “Life” was more than just teaching about winning, it was about teaching boys and girls that they CAN develop the attitude, the skills, and the desire to achieve. Most people regard Coach Mohatt as a very successful basketball coach, believing Coach’s history of winning 10 East Bay Athletic League basketball championships in 13 years was the best way to measure his success. When I was younger I used that same measure of success, but I don’t any longer. The measures I use are: Imagination Preparation Intensity “Imagination” – Coach had an incredible imagination. He could see the future as he imagined it could be, not the way it was. The most glaring example: he imagined he could date the prettiest girl in his home town of Sonora, and he even dreamed that she would marry him. Talk about a dreamer! Then he made his dream into reality. In 1968, his first season as Amador’s varsity basketball coach, Coach had the audacity to imagine he could coach his basketball team to improve so much it could win its first outright EBAL basketball championship. It was not a dream he kept a secret – he tried to plant the dream into all of his players. The players who did not take hold of the dream and run with it were not on the team for long. I still have a mimeographed copy of the Players’ Manual that Coach prepared for us at the start of each season. It read something like “If you do not believe you can be a member of this team and contribute everything you have, every day, to be a better player, then you are wasting your time and you should waste your time doing something else.” Those are not his exact words, but that’s how I remember the essence of his dream. That’s how he expected us to be a part of achieving the goal of becoming the best players we could become. For Coach’s first year we had great, talented players, but we did not have great dreamers. The second year we had great athletes, not great basketball players - but we kept working to improve in every practice and every game. And it worked. I think we players were surprised at our first championship in 1970. Coach may have been a little surprised - if he was, he would never let us know! I suspect he imagined the championship in his dreams every night. “Preparation” – Coach always held a clipboard in practice, but for a long time I did not know what was on it. When I finally looked at the papers on the clipboard one day, I saw a detailed, multi-page schedule for each practice. Every five-minute interval was planned for each two-hour practice, and Coach had a written schedule for every day of the season! I was amazed at the amount of preparation he put into practices. I thought he had us perform a drill or a play based on whatever came into his mind during each practice! Coach was always prepared, even when I thought he wouldn’t be. Coach used to require we show him our report cards, and he always told us we needed to bring this grade up, or that grade up. The one time I had a report card with all “A” grades, I walked up to Coach and handed him my only perfect report card. He looked at the card, thrust the card back at me, and told me to “work on my citizenship” and turned and walked away from me. In Coach’s world, there was always an opportunity to improve. “Intensity” – does anyone who watched Coach while he was coaching one of his basketball teams ever question whether he was intense? Of course he was! But his naturally booming voice and his high-flying white towel were his tools for communicating to us players that we could play better, and should play better immediately (Coach also used the same methods to try to help develop referees to their full potential, but that’s another story!). We players learned that being intense was okay, as long as we controlled our intensity and channeled it towards our mutual goal. Coach yelling at us in practice was how he communicated – it was normal. Those players who took the yelling personally did not stay with the team very long. Coach did not yell at us to demean us, he yelled at us to get his point across, to coach us to correct our mistakes and perform better on the court. We learned to differentiate when Coach was coaching us, from the times when he was upset at us. Newspaper sportswriters who were intimidated by Coach because of the way he loudly coached from the bench eventually understood his persona and were less intimidated. They just never knew him like his players knew him. Coach was not always intense. He was kind and understanding when he needed to be. I remember to this day when I committed three errors at a crucial point in a game because I was thinking more about the girl I was dating than the game I was playing. After the game Coach was standing in our locker room near the exit as I was about to leave. I walked up to Coach, looked at him and told him, “I know, Coach, I know.” He just looked me in the eye and did not say a word. No booming voice. No flying white towel. Just a silent understanding between the two of us that there was nothing he needed to say about the errors I had made. He knew I was committing to him I would not make them again. Imagination. Preparation. Intensity. The hallmarks of Coach’s teachings in the classroom of “Life.” So what else is there to say about the man I have always called “Coach”? The only thing I can say is: I hope he realized before he passed away just how many student athletes’ lives he impacted in this very large classroom we call “Skip Mohatt Gymnasium.” And on the softball field where he coached. And in the Washington D.C. civics competition rooms where he took his academic teams. And in the family room of his home. Coach knows.
Janice L Johnson (Jones)
I had Coach Mohatt for social studies and really enoyed him. He was funny, smart, kind of cranky and always interesting. I also worked for him as a student aide and he was always the same. He published two books late in life and I understand the book store was mobbed on the day he was there signing books for people.