Spotlight: Football Coach Eric Peralta
Welcome to our spotlight in which we take time to feature a different person in the sports programs on campus. Today, we are here to interview Eric Peralta, who is an alumni of Walnut High School and coach of varsity football.
Nicole Chiang: What were your expectations going into season?
Eric Peralta: High. I don’t think I’ve ever gone into anything saying that the bar’s going to be set low. So my expectation was to come in and change the culture. I’m an alumni, so I know what this program is about. I’ve played here when the expectations have been high and I coached here when the expectations have always been high, and it’s no different, when I took this position. It’s a matter of teaching the kids the history of this place and getting them to buy in, in terms of the philosophy I want to incorporate, the culture and those are my goals and expectations. So far the kids have done a really fantastic job.
Chiang: Why did you decide to start coaching?
Peralta: I’ve been coaching for 19 years now, and I started out with a Catholic school in Bellflower called St. John Bosco. One of my friends who played at St. John Bosco went on their staff as a freshmen offensive line coach, and he’s actually one of my best friends. He asked me if I wanted to come along and coach because he knew I had the passion for football and that’s where I started. From there it just grew into something that I loved to do. I definitely don’t do it for the notoriety, I don’t do it for the pay. If those were the cases, I would’ve quit 15 years ago. I do it because I love seeing kids grow, and I love to do it because I get an opportunity to make an impact on them. Sometimes they need that structure, they need that discipline. It gives me an opportunity to do all those things. That’s my goal of every season for every person that walks through my door. I want to build great young men. So that’s why I love to do it. That’s why I’ve been doing it for so long.
Chiang: Why did you decide to take the position of head coach?
Peralta: Because I love this place. There’s no other answer besides that. Like I said, I’m an alumni and aside from getting married and having my daughter, high school was [one] of the greatest times I had ever. I couldn’t tell you or remember a specific play when I played football, but I can tell you that I’ve made a tremendous amount of memories with teammates that I’m still great friends with to this day. I’ve made tremendous memories with those guys on and off the field. This is the place that gave me such great memories. I love this place.
Chiang: How was the transition from teaching economics to coaching football?
Peralta: The same but different. The principles that I apply in my classroom are every similar to the principles I apply to football on the field. I think that as a coach, you’re also a teacher, you’re just teaching them a different subject. The thing that’s great about football versus a classroom is that you actually get to see them perform physically, the things that you teach. The ultimate goal is growth and development in terms of mastering a topic. In the classroom it’s a subject, on the field, it’s a ball technique, but similarly, things like character and respect and being courteous, being kind to each other, those things lend to both the classroom and the football field. All of those things are the same whether it’s in a classroom or a football field. That’s why I said it was the same but different.
Chiang: How would you describe your coaching style?
Peralta: I think the answer to that is that I’m a teacher. I’m very detail oriented. I’m not a big yelling and screaming kind of guy, even though sometimes it’s required. I think my coaching style is fair and mellow. I’m a teacher, [a] teacher that pays attention to detail.
Chiang: What is something you want your players to learn/gain by the end of the season?
Peralta: To really truly understand what a mustang is. A mustang is prideful, respectful, smart, crafty, resourceful, industrious. They learn to love this place, they learn to love their community, their classmates, their peers [and] their teachers. I think those things really embody what a Walnut Mustang is all about. For them to come through this program and if they’re able to walk away with that and truly say “I am a Mustang” and really embrace that, I think then I’d have done a good job with them. I always tell them that football is so much more than x’s and o’s. It’s about all the lessons that the x’s and o’s and the experiences they teach you.
Chiang: What was it like playing for the team when you were in high school?
Peralta: It’s a lot different. The demographic was a lot different. When I played here, we were very successful. My freshmen team went 10-0. My JV team went 8-2 or something like that. Junior year, we went 9-2. We won league in my senior year for 8-3. We were number 1 in the valley in Division 1. We were very successful back then. We had good guys, we had great coaches. It was a different time. I think these days, there’s a lot to distract kids. Back then there were no cell phones, there was no Facebook, or Instagram to distract the kids, no Snapchat. So the focus was a lot different. For me, it was studying so I could keep my parents happy so I could stay eligible to play football. Playing on this team was fantastic. It was fun and I hope that what my current players feel. That it’s fun and they have a sense of pride and ownership of shaping this program.
Chiang: How has the program changed? Is the process of it different now?
Peralta: I hope so. I think that’s one thing as a head coach that you want to do. You want to change things, to improve things that you think need improvement, to continue things that you feel are going well. Basically putting my thumbprint on the program. If I were to take this program and say that everything is great and that we don’t need to change anything, then I don’t think I would be doing my job. There are things I’ve implemented that have helped build a little bit more team chemistry, a little bit more team camaraderie. [I have been] trying to change the culture, trying to change the mentality, the way these kids approach work, the way they treat each other. Those are the things that I’ve made it a point to focus on to change.
By Nicole Chiang, News editor
Photo by Airi Gonzalez