The Profiler: Encinal Jets coach Joe Tenorio

The Profiler: Encinal Jets coach Joe Tenorio

Janice Worthen
Encinal Jets

Encinal Jets football coach Joe Tenorio (center) is leaving to go back to school. Photo courtesy of Joe Tenorio.

While many coaches spend a lifetime building their reputation, Joe Tenorio made a name for himself in just a few years. He is a Bay Area coaching legend.

Tenorio started his local coaching career as the head coach of Encinal High School’s junior varsity football team back in 2002 and took over as varsity head coach in 2006. In 2008, the Jets won both the league and the section championships and finished their season undefeated. Under Tenorio’s guidance, the Encinal Jets won four Bay Shore Athletic League championships and made it to the North Coast Section championships three times – with three different quarterbacks.

“That’s really just unheard of in a high school setting,” Encinal defensive coordinator Hugo Guerrero said.

Tenorio announced in February that he was resigning as Encinal football’s head coach so he could finish his master’s degree in kinesiology and take his coaching to the next level. Although he enjoyed his time at Encinal, Tenorio said he wants to be an on-campus coach who is officially active nine months out of the year instead of just three months. (Tenorio was paid for three months’ worth of coaching during the football season, but he devoted months more of his time to his charges in the form of summer practices, study halls, planning and playoffs.)

For his accomplishments, Tenorio has received numerous honors, including being named Raiders Coach of the Week every year from 2007 to 2013. He was also selected as the Raiders Coach of the Year in 2008 and 2010 and the Bay Shore Athletic League Coach of the Year in 2008 and 2010.

Tenorio said the team’s consistent performance with different players is something he’s proud of. When Tenorio took over the team, he said there was a lot of work to do, though he was surprised at how quickly everything came together.

The team had experienced a run of losses and mediocre seasons; in 2001, 2002, and 2004, the team lost more games than it won and in 2003 and 2005, the Jets won roughly half of their games. The first year Tenorio served as head coach, the team finished 2-8. But after that, the team enjoyed a winning streak that includes an undefeated season.

Recruiting a coaching staff and creating a unified team were some of his first tasks.

Guerrero, who played football with Tenorio while both were students at Encinal, said that when he was brought on to coach, he and Tenorio talked about the coaches they looked up to and wanted to emulate in their own approaches. Tenorio said some of his own coaching mentors include former Encinal head coach Jack Schram, Contra Costa College head coach Alonzo Carter, and John Beam, athletic director and offensive coordinator at Laney College.

Guerrero said Tenorio tended to favor the “tough-nosed” coaches.

“We grew up idolizing football, you know,” Guerrero said, “and we wanted to bring that to our alma mater.”

Guerrero said their work really focused on getting athletes committed and accountable.

Sacramento State defensive back and former Encinal High School quarterback, defensive back and running back Tyrone Duckett, who graduated from Encinal in 2010, said that prior to Tenorio earning the head coaching job, it “seemed like the team was on the decline.” The team had lost multiple games, and morale was low. But Duckett said Tenorio was able to connect with players and turn things around quickly.

“He was a fiery coach,” Duckett said. “You have to show passion for what you do. He showed passion, and the players respected that.”

Duckett said that all the athletes he played with at Encinal had strong skills but that Tenorio’s “dynamic program” and enthusiasm made the players want to play.

“He put players in the right place,” Duckett said. “He was tough, you know. He didn’t sugar coat. He gave it to you like it is. He was a player’s coach.”

Some of the challenges Tenorio faced were getting not only players to “buy in” to the program but also parents and the school’s administration. He said that fundraising, reconciling parents’ expectations with the athletes’ expectations, and juggling more and more responsibilities for an off-campus coaching position were also struggles.

Duckett said that he may not have appreciated Tenorio’s coaching style at first, but that after a while, Tenorio’s coaching style and Duckett’s playing became one.

“Each year we made significant progress,” Duckett said, “until we became one of the best teams in the Bay Area.”

Former junior varsity head coach Barry Ford attributes some of Tenorio and his staff’s success to creating a disciplinary system and working hard in the weight room.

“We didn’t run trick plays,” Ford said. “We played old fashioned smash mouth football.”

Ford said one of the coaching staff’s first goals was to beat Alameda High School, which had defeated the Jets in the annual Island Bowl every year from 2001 to 2005, and end their losing streak on the local front. The team experienced a devastating 31-0 loss to Alameda High School the first year Tenorio was head coach. But the team bounced back the following year, beating Alameda 25-8 – marking what Ford called “one of the greatest moments in Encinal history.” The Jets have won every Island Bowl matchup with Alameda High School since 2007.

Ford says he measures part of his own success by getting athletes to the next level, whether that be college or a career. Tenorio, he said, set an example for continuing to learn and excel.

In addition to on-the-field play, Tenorio emphasized performance off the field and said skills learned on the team could be translated to other areas. He said he wanted to show the athletes, parents, and administration that “football is a microcosm of real life”: If an athlete can succeed on the team, he can be a “productive adult.”

Andrew Ve'e, who played quarterback and middle linebacker for the Jets before graduating in 2012, said that Tenorio and his staff helped him realize his potential and taught him that if he works hard, he can achieve his goals.

"My experience on the team helped me develop more confidence and leadership skills and taught me the work habit that I need to have success in life, which is through dedication and hard work," Ve’e said. "(Coach Tenorio) gave us the tools we needed and helped us to develop our passion and talents for the game and motivated us by instilling in us that we were the only ones that could beat ourselves."

What makes a successful team, Ve’e said, “is a team that works in unity and one where you can look around and know you are surrounded by family, which is what we have at Encinal. Without that unity and bond you can't win or achieve anything."

In order for success to happen on and off the field, Tenorio said, “players, coaches, administration, and parents have to be on the same page and have common goals.”

Encinal High School football’s website touts this focus on unity with the mission statement, “One Team, One Family & One Direction!” Guerrero, Ford, and Duckett all listed “common goals” as one of the requirements for a winning team.

As decorated as he has been for his coaching successes, Tenorio said one of the greatest rewards is working with athletes and creating productive teams where everyone gets something out of it. He said he hopes to continue this work in a campus environment.

So what advice would Tenorio give to someone who wants to coach?

“If you don’t like the whole process,” he said, “you’re not gonna have fun.”