There’s a sports expression, “leaving it all on the field,” that means an athlete did everything he or she could to help the team be successful in competition or in practice.
As a football coach and teacher, Ben Hallock has been leaving it on the field and in the classroom for local high school students and student athletes for nearly four decades.
Now, after 38 years, Hallock is ready to leave the profession he’s given so much to.
Hallock announced this week he is retiring at Carpinteria High at the end of the school year in June.
“I’m really looking forward to it,” he said on a break from setting up for a track-and-field meet at Carpinteria Valley Memorial Stadium, where he walked the sidelines for football games and assisted with the track team for many years.
He also served as football coach, teacher and athletic director at Bishop Diego, and football coach and teacher at Santa Barbara High, his alma mater.
Hallock, 62, feels fortunate to have spent his entire career in the area where he grew up.
“It’s been great, it’s wonderful,” he said. “To be able to stay in this area the whole time has been a great blessing.”
He cited changes in the way high school athletics are run nowadays, sports specialization and time as factors in his decision to retire.
“There’s never a down time or a break,” he said. “I’ve enjoyed everything except the time that it takes away from your family and everything else. Through the years I’ve become more and more jealous of that.
“I missed a lot with my kids. My wife, Susie, was wonderful, she was wonderful about getting the kids around.”
Through the years, Hallock has built a multitude of great relationships through coaching and teaching.
“I’ve made wonderful relationships with anybody we played in league or non-league. It’s amazing when you get going here how things get tied together, people that know people.”
He recalled the days when he broke in at Bishop Diego in 1979 after graduating from UCSB.
“It was definitely a great time in our lives — we were young,” he said. “That’s when all our babies (daughters Kate and Anne and son Tom) were born during that five-year period. The people there at Bishop were just wonderful in terms of family, all that kind of stuff. They were very supportive. We made lots of wonderful friends there; the families there took care of our family.
“A lot of those first guys I coached there I was just a few years older than them. And a lot of those became personal friends, life-long friends,” he noted.
Steve Robles, a longtime assistant football coach at Bishop Diego and a retired police officer, is one of those former players who became friends with his coach.
“When I was a young high school student-athlete playing football for coach Hallock at Bishop Diego, I learned a great deal from him but just not about the X’s and O’s on the football field, but how to be the best person I could be off the field,” he said. “He always wanted to put all his student athletes in the best position to succeed.
“My father, coach (Tom) Crawford and coach Hallock have been the best mentors I could have ever asked for in my life. What I learned at a young age from coach Hallock, which led into my adult life, was always ‘paying close attention to detail.’ I carried that important lesson as a police officer and high school football coach.”
He added: “The communities of Santa Barbara and Carpinteria can be very proud and thankful to Coach Hallock. He embodied the communities he has taught in and brought that positive environment inside his classrooms.”
Crawford, the head football coach at Bishop Diego, said Hallock “is not just a great football coach but a great role model for his players and colleagues. He always demonstrated the commitment, compassion and sportsmanship which set the standard for those of us in the coaching profession to strive for.
“It was a joy to be able to compete against his teams knowing that, win or lose, the contest would be hard fought. His team would be well-prepared, and both teams would be better for the experience. Ben is simply a class act, and while I congratulate him on his retirement, his direct daily impact on young people and on his friends in the profession will be missed.”
Hallock said when he started coaching at Bishop Diego, he sought the advice of his high school football coach, Mike Moropoulos.
“The first year I coached, I talked to him every single week,” he recalled. “He was so gracious to spend the time with me. He coached two teams that year. He was a great help to me.”
Craig Moropoulos, Mike’s son and the football coach at Santa Barbara City College, remembered the relationship Hallock had with his father.
“My dad was like a mentor. “(Ben) played for him, and throughout his coaching he always utilized my dad’s advice and stayed in contact with him.”
Moropoulos called Hallock “one of the more dedicated coaches as there’s ever been around here. He’s extremely intelligent. I’ve always been impressed with his intelligence and just his dedication.”
Dan Shiells, the former prep sports editor at the Santa Barbara News-Press, covered several of Hallock’s teams. He, too, was impressed with the coach’s smarts.
“Ben was always one of the brightest and most imaginative thinkers on the field — to my mind he was something of an intellectual as a football coach, if such a thing is possible,” he said. “He deeply cared about the players and the reasons for which they were playing.”
Hallock’s passion and work ethic are legendary.
Van Latham, longtime track-and-field coach and assistant football coach at Carpinteria, said Hallock was an intense workaholic when he first arrived at Carpinteria in 1984 and remains that way today.
“At first, we weren’t sure what to think of him,” Latham said. “He was very focused, very intense and still is.”
The two became good friends and have worked side by side on the football field and track.
Latham said he’s always been impressed with the insight Hallock “has on people, things and situations, and the passion that goes with it.”
He also admires his friend’s big heart.
“He’s very moral and fair and a straight shooter. That is something he brings to the table that I’ve always appreciated. He’s never about winning for winning’s sake. He’s about doing things the right way,” said Latham.
Football assistant Henry Gonzalez said he’s learned a lot from Hallock.
“Years ago as a young coach, he helped me learn about thinking outside the box of basic coaching,” Gonzalez said. “Ben is a very intelligent man with a tremendous knowledge of the game of football. He taught me how to see things from other perspectives, thus being creative in how you attack a defense.
“Coach Hallock is the most caring, honorable, committed, upstanding person you will ever meet. You know he will always do the right and best thing for our kids, our coaches and our school. That is his DNA.
“The relationship we have built amongst us (me, Van and Ben) over the years is one of love, great respect and valued friendship. Ben has been our leader and we will miss him dearly.”
At Bishop, Hallock coached the Cardinals to a pair of Tri-Valley League titles and four CIF playoff appearances in five years.
One of his highlights during his time at Bishop was beating Carpinteria in 1980, his second year as coach, and winning the rivalry game again in 1981 in overtime.
“That was really a fun deal,” he said.
He also recalled a “knock-down, drag-out” game with St. Bonaventure. “That was a wonderful game that led to a league championship.”
Hallock coached against his younger brother, Tom, a star lineman at Santa Ynez High who later played at USC.
“That was a fun little rivalry at the time,” he said. “The guy who coached him became a friend. Ken Gruendyke is just a marvelous man. It’s been fun to share a friendship with him all these years. He’s still around doing a little track (coaching), so it’s a been a little mentoring to me.”
Hallock left for Carpinteria in 1984 and joined the staff of Lou Panizzon. He took over as head coach when Panizzon retired in 1990, and guided the Warriors to a CIF-Southern Section title in 1991, the final in 1995 and four TVL titles during his first stint there.
“Being able to come here to Carpinteria has been wonderful for my family and for my career — just the way the people at Carpinteria took me in,” he said. “Coach Panizzon and I became good friends when we were rivals, and we always had great respect for each other. When there was a possibility for me to come here, I came and I had the opportunity to teach and coach with Coach Panizzon. That was a great thing.”
Another highlight during that time was coaching Coley Candaele, one of the greatest athletes in the history of Carpinteria High. He quarterbacked the Warriors to three CIF tittles and won the state championship in the mile.
Hallock is great friends with the Candaeles. Coley’s father, Rick, has been a member of his coaching staff, and the parents of his wife, Karen, are best friends.
“You meet good people and that leads you to good people. That’s kind of the way it’s been. There have been so many great relationships that have developed through that Candaele clan for sure,” he said. “It’s fun to see that the relationship part is what makes this thing work.”
In 1997, Hallock took the coaching job at Santa Barbara High, where his daughters were students.
He came back to Carpinteria in 2000, rejoined the coaching staff and became the head coach again in 2009, following John Hazelton.
Hallock acknowledged the local coaches he’s been associated with and learned from through his career, guys such as Scott O’Leary and Jeff Hesselmeyer at Dos Pueblos, Sut and Satini Puailoa, Bob Archer and John Stoney at San Marcos, Mike Moropoulos at Santa Barbara, his staff at Carpinteria: Van Latham, Henry Gonzalez, John McClure and Rick Candaele.
“It’s been a great journey,” he said.
Through it all, he said, the goal has always been to make sure the students he’s dealing with are going to be good people.
“We just talked about how we’re going to be the good guys, we’re going to have the right attitude, the right work ethic, the right reasons for doing what we do, and that’s the way you want to do it. You want to care for each other, you want take care of each other, you want to respect your opponents.
“You’re going to respect them by how you prepare, to get ready to play them. You want to be prepared because you respect what they do. Let’s have a great plan, and let’s go work on that plan, and let’s play has hard as we can play, and let’s shake hands and give guys hugs. We can do it, we can respect the people we play.
“Through this experience of athletics associated with your school, it’s always been about making this a great experience, a great growth experience. This is where you’re going to learn how to be the right kind of person.”