Position: Varsity Girl's Basketball Coach
School: North Salinas High School
School District: Salinas Union High School District
City, State: Salinas, California
About the Nominee: Darren Jackson was nominated by his spouse, C. Melissa Jackson. Coach Jackson has been the varsity girls' basketball coach for the past 17 years and has amassed over 350 wins during his career. He has built the girls' basketball program into a powerhouse in Salinas. He inspires the girls in his program to strive to be better than they think they can be and to always give their all each time they step on the court. In Salinas, very few girls only play one sport. Most of the girls in Coach Jackson's program play multiple sports, but once basketball season starts, he makes sure their attention and focus is only on basketball. His standards on the court are set at a higher level, and he always expects them to be followed. He sets high standards for the classroom, as well. He asks all players to sit in the front of the classroom for their classes, turn in progress reports and be respectful students.
To some of the girls, Coach Jackson is their father figure. Some of the players come from single-parent households and look to Coach Jackson as a role model, a trusted confidant and someone they can rely on. He and his staff never leave the school until all players have been picked up. He has even waited in the cold with his assistant coach while a player waits in the warm car, sometimes hours after practice, until her ride arrives. Every year, past players can be found in the gym asking to practice, work out or stop by to visit.
Coach Jackson is so well respected as a coach that other area coaches will call to ask his advice, ask for mentoring or just to pick his brain. He is always looking to better himself as a coach, and he will spend off-season and pre-season studying college coaches. You can always find him online or watching DVDs of those coaches so that his coaching practices are up to date.
Coach Jackson doesn't ever coach in the spotlight. He always takes pride in the girls' winning, not in his many accomplishments. He has been League Coach of the Year, County Coach of the Year, Northern California Coach of the Year and a Golden Whistle winner. Coach Jackson will ask that the girls be recognized first, and that they are the reason for his success. His teams have won the league title 7 times and have won 3 sectional championships. In 2009-2010, Coach Jackson brought the Lady Vikings to the sectional championships 20 years after their last visit and brought home a win. He did it again with back-to-back (2013-2014 and 2014-2015) championships and last year as runner-ups (2015-2016).
Coach Jackson also has a travel program for local boys and girls ages 10-18. He takes his teams to play throughout California and Nevada. Although there is a fee for playing on the travel team, Coach Jackson will never turn away a player who cannot pay. He will contact businesses that he knows to ask for sponsors so that every child can play. He will also fundraise for these players and do what needs to be done so that players will be kept busy and off the streets during the summer.
Coach Jackson has worked for the recreation department in Salinas and as the Activities Director for a local middle school. He knows firsthand that children need to be respected as individuals in order to show respect to others. He takes pride in teaching his players how to show respect so that they are successful on and off the court. Coach Jackson is constantly stopped by former players (even those from other schools) and students who remember him and the positive ways he has touched their life.
Overall, Coach Jackson is a LifeChanger because of the tireless effort he puts into the sport that he loves. His countless hours in the gym helping all three levels of his program are awe-inspiring. He shows such a passion for coaching that his players buy into his ability to teach them the game and produce wins. The months of November-July are basketball season, and Coach Jackson will spend those months doing what he loves. His wife states that as an alumni of North Salinas High School, she couldn't be prouder of the reputation he has brought to her school, city and state. Coach Jackson is definitely a LifeChanger!