Steve Amaro’s long run as a Freedom High School teacher, coach and athletic director has reached the finish line.
But his presence and effect on the Oakley campus will carry on when he becomes one of the school’s assistant principals, next school year.
“It just felt like the timing was right,” Amaro said. “There are always things you can continue to do in athletics, but the opportunity presented itself, and Freedom is a special school. I talked to some of my coworkers, talked to my family and decided to put my name in. I am excited for the opportunity to help make Freedom the best it can be.”
Amaro has spent 21 years as the school’s tennis coach, 18 years as an English teacher, 16 years as the school’s athletic director and three years as an English content coach. He leaves behind a trail of success as he joins Freedom’s leadership team, charged with ensuring the school’s safety, climate and operations that enable student success. The school has yet to announce who will take over his coaching and athletic director duties.
“Obviously, Steve has had a tremendous impact in shaping Freedom’s athletic program over the past 16 years,” said Eric Volta, superintendent of the Liberty Union High School District. “A program that has seen a number of successful teams and individuals but, more importantly, a program that has focused on promoting character and academics. We are positive that Steve will bring that same energy and passion to being part of the administrative team at Freedom High.”
The modest Amaro couldn’t rattle off the exact number of championships Freedom won in his 16 years as athletic director, but the array of banners lining the gym indicate that there have been quite a few.
Looking back last week, Amaro said his most memorable Freedom sports’ moments include watching the Freedom softball teams win multiple North Coast Section titles, witnessing the Falcons baseball team win its own section crown over heavily favored De La Salle at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum in 2009, and seeing the boys basketball squad fight valiantly in an overtime loss to Monte Vista in the California Interscholastic Federation, Division I, Northern Regional championship game at Sleep Train Arena, in 2014.
But the school’s athletic achievements are only a portion of Amaro’s legacy-in-progress.
He brought Unified Sports (combining special and general education students on intermixed teams that play together) to California after learning about similar programs at an out-of-state conference; he served a number of other high school sports organizations, including the North Coast Section and National Federation of State High School Associations; he built up the school’s tennis program as its first-and-only boys head coach, and the second of two girls’ coaches; he launched an annual summer youth tennis camp, now in its 20th year; and left an indelible mark on his students.
Daniel Hernandez, Amaro’s former student and Falcons tennis team member, said the longtime coach and teacher instilled in him leadership qualities, confidence and critical-thinking skills.
“I was this fat, little, shy kid that obviously didn’t think he was very good at sports; always the last pick,” Hernandez said. “He was the first person who ever showed me that I just had to work; that I had the capabilities. I just never believed in myself … He’s the most influential and respected person in my life.”
Fellow former tennis player, Janet Delavan, expressed similar sentiments, noting that Amaro taught her technical skills, while inspiring her learning and instilling determination.
“He is one of the best role models I have had in my life, a father figure,” she said.
For his part, Amaro said he’ll definitely miss coaching daily — something he never took for granted — but looks forward to continuing to watch Freedom thrive, in and out of sports.
“The kids here are great,” Amaro said. “The kids here have a desire to be great and are welcoming to everyone else. The staff is willing to try new things to make things better for everybody. Freedom is an incredibly hard-working community, and I am proud to be a part of it.”