Jerry Fleischhacker, a retired history teacher and the winningest soccer coach in school history, didn’t miss any of the 704 games played by his teams.
BY ASHLEY MACKIN-SOLOMON
OCT. 11, 2021 12:44 PM PT
For retired La Jolla Country Day School coach Jerry Fleischhacker, or “Coach Fly,” it’s all about showing up. In the 29 years he was a history teacher and boys soccer coach, Fleischhacker didn’t miss any of the 704 games played by his teams (he even scheduled a heart surgery for the offseason) and barely missed a day of instruction.
His teams had a record of 364-215-125, making him the winningest soccer coach in school history. His teams won five Coastal League championships and two CIF championships.
In addition, his boys tennis teams were league champs all three years he coached.
For his years of dedication and modeling the importance of commitment, Fleischhacker will be inducted as a 2021 San Diego High School Coaching Legend by the San Diego Hall of Champions in a ceremony next year.
“I’m very honored, it’s a great recognition,” he said.
The induction is for retired coaches who have “demonstrated outstanding performance and sportsmanship on the courts, in the pools and on the field of play” and have spent at least 10 years as a varsity head coach, according to the selection committee. Fleischhacker retired in June 2020.
“When we talk about scholar-athletes of character, Jerry is the perfect example,” said Country Day Athletic Director Jeff Hutzler, who nominated Fleischhacker. “He was just as dedicated in the classroom as he was on the soccer field and he really was a great example for our young men. He always did everything with impeccable character — with honesty, wanting to win and to win the right way — and he was someone who always spoke the truth because it was the right thing to do. When we talk about dedication, he was the walking embodiment. That’s the way he lived. He was a tremendous example for our students.”
Fleischhacker came to La Jolla Country Day in 1991 while he was still working on his Ph.D.
He jokes that he was “ABD — all but dissertation” when he got a job teaching summer school at Andover in
Massachusetts. Deciding that would be his career path, Fleischhacker started teaching and coaching at schools on the East Coast before transferring to La Jolla Country Day, where his sons, Alexander and Benjamin, went to school and his wife, Elizabeth, worked as a nurse.
“I like the combination of teaching and coaching,” Fleischhacker said. “I think that provides a great opportunity to get to know them in different capacities.”
Though he is being honored for his coaching record, Fleischhacker said he considers himself a teacher first and a coach second.
In the classroom, he said, “I’m big on students being able to express their ideas freely. I taught juniors and seniors 99 percent of the time, mostly AP [Advanced Placement] classes, so they are big on exchanging ideas. I have excellent relationships with people whom I disagreed with dramatically, because they appreciated that if they know the material and present evidence, any idea is OK.”
Similarly, on the field, he said, “the players have to make decisions ... on their own, so the more independence you teach them, the better the team will be. Soccer is not like other sports. I can’t just tell them which play to do; there are more player decisions.”
In either environment, Fleischhacker advocates commitment from his students and athletes. “A commitment has to be a part of what you do,” he said. “We played a lot of games and had a good record, but I think it’s about more than winning games. I think it serves people to show up every time. I think it’s a message to the students.
“I was a full-time teacher … and I think I only missed a couple of days of school at the most when I had my heart bypass and to see my son play in college. When you do that, the results take care of themselves. I, like any coach, had a couple of losing seasons, but if there is commitment and you do the best you can, it’s a good thing. I hope I instilled that in my athletes: Do the best you can and show up.”
Joining Fleischhacker in this year’s Coaching Legends class are Ramona High School girls volleyball coach Connie Halfaker, Rancho Bernardo High School track coach Don Jones, Cathedral Catholic High School softball coach Margaret Mauro and San Pasqual High School boys and girls tennis coach Ron Peet.
— The San Diego Union-Tribune contributed to this report.