As Madison Park Academy athletic director Dion Evans gathered with his family this past holiday season, the typically-selfless Evans posed a question to each of his family members, asking what he could do for them to make the next year even better.
Their response was to turn the tables on him, especially as 21-year old daughter Daysia, a recent graduate with honors from Clark University in Atlanta, insisted that he do something selfish for once. His choice, however, was far from selfish, as Evans chose to seek a return to the football sideline as a head coach. The opportunity to mentor more youth now comes as part of a unique situation.
With the support of his wife of 25 years, Leticia, plus his children Daysia and 12-year old Seth, Evans was able to find a position which suited him well, a South San Francisco program struggling to get back on its feet after back-to-back winless seasons.
“I wanted to coach somewhere that wants to win, but just needs a coach who wants to be there and develop the talent there,” Evans said. “Even though I have been serving all sports (at Madison Park), I am a football coach, so I wanted to get back into it, and I wanted to do it now.”
For most people, taking the head football position at one school would mean giving up the athletic director position at a different school. Evans, however, has chosen to embrace the unique challenge of holding these two roles on two different campuses, on opposite sides of the bay from each other.
“I have already coached each fall sport in some capacity at MPA, and I have been able to bring on new coaches who fit the vision of the school. So those pieces are all in place for it to be a smooth transition,” Evans said. “I was also able to find someone who I trust to handle the site supervision of fall sports while I am coaching at South City.”
Indeed, Evans had already noticed the fact that teacher Chelsea Slater attended all the home athletic events on a regular basis, and was able to get administrative approval for Slater to become his assistant athletic director, directly in charge of site supervision for fall sports in his absence. That hardly means Evans will be disconnected from the Madison Park campus when he leaves each day for his football duties.
Evans’ schedule will include an approximate 1 pm departure each day from Oakland, but after making the 30-mile drive to South San Francisco and spending four to five fours with the Warriors, his plan is to then swing back by the MPA campus on his way home, which is seven minutes from the school. His son Seth, who is a reigning USA Youth Weightlifting National Champion in the snatch lift, will also be attending Madison Park and involved in after-school extra-curriculars.
“When I leave South San Francisco each day, I go back to being a dad and a husband at night,” Evans commented. “I am ultimately grateful to have an amazing wife who supports the often thankless nature of serving others. I am trying to give kids today a better youth than I had. We are all here to use sports as a vehicle to make our students better at life.”
The decision to go coach at another school came about for Evans as he realized that he could not just make football happen at Madison Park, despite earlier efforts to do so. The Engineering and Graphic Design school, which is composed fully of students of color who are on free and reduced lunch programs, thrives academically and sees approximately three-quarters of its students accepted directly to a four-year college or university. But the campus contains roughly 200 male students at the high school level, which means that 10 percent of the male student body needs to play football just to have 20 bodies. The Trojans last fielded a team in 2018, but after one-sided losses in the first two games, could not field a team for the remainder of the season. The lone varsity win in program history came in 2016, when the Trojans defeated Lowell-San Francisco, 22-20.
“I couldn’t force football to happen here, but I needed to return to coaching football,” Evans stated. “But nothing will slow down (at Madison Park). Nothing will stop. I will make sure of that, and I know I have a great support system to help with that.”
Evans brings with him to South San Francisco a coaching resume which started over two decades ago, when he started coaching at Oakland High in 1999. He has also served on staff at McClymonds under current San Jose State running backs coach Alonzo Carter, and has coached at the youth level as well. His enthusiasm for taking over a Peninsula Athletic League program is not diminished one bit by the recent lack of success on the South City campus.
“We have gotten our workout numbers up to 56 kids, and they had 45 kids on their roster last season. I have been able to prepare by watching film of all their home games from last season, and we had 40 kids jump right in as soon as we started winter and spring workouts,” Evans said. “Even though they struggled last season, these kids and last year’s staff deserve a lot of credit for keeping together and increasing numbers along the way.”
Indeed, Evans is excited by key returners such as senior running back Carlos Garcia Magallon and the fact he has five players competing for the starting quarterback spot. The junior class also contains a ton of size on the line, with a handful of returners who saw time on the varsity level as sophomores.
Furthermore, Evans now has his opportunity to impact young men and women on two different campuses, in a time where his message can resonate loudly with all who listen and pay attention as schools and athletic programs seek to be leaders in their communities.
“I have the best of both worlds right now. I get to provide gravity to students of all ethnicity,” Evans said. “I tell them to not allow their humanity to suffer because of other beliefs. They can’t see differences as their focus.”
South San Francisco is scheduled to open its football season on Aug. 28 at James Lick, if games occur as planned at the moment. Madison Park’s girls’ volleyball and tennis programs will get the fall sports season rolling for the Trojans. Evans will be invested in the success of all those programs, in and out of the playing arena, as he embraces the furthest thing from a selfish decision.