Todd Heil, the CIF Model Coach of the Year in 2018-19, will be taking charge of all coaches at Santa Barbara High School next season.
Principal Elise Simmons confirmed Wednesday that she hired the school’s longtime teacher and boys soccer coach as the new athletic director last week after interviewing four finalists.
“I’ve been so fortunate to work here at Santa Barbara High for the last 21 years,” Heil said. “I truly do view this as an opportunity to give back to a school that has given me so much.”
He succeeds Joe Chenoweth, who announced two months ago that he would be moving into a teaching position at the high school after serving as the Dons’ athletic director for the last eight years.
“Todd Heil has been a very respected educator in our community as well as an exceptional coach,” Simmons said. “He has an extensive understanding of all things athletics and has been a member of the CIF Advisory Board now for over a decade.
“He’s passionate about all things athletics and all things Santa Barbara High. He’s highly organized and he loves students. He’s going to do a wonderful job.”
Heil will face plenty of challenges during his first year at the helm. All school facilities have been closed since March because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I’m jumping into the deep end,” Heil said with a chuckle.
“We’re going to have to take it day-by-day,” he said when asked about restarting the Dons athletic programs. “We have to wait to see what we’re allowed to do.
“The health and safety of our athletes and staff are our priority. We have to be careful to reopen our facilities safely.”
One of those facilities is Peabody Stadium, which has been undergoing reconstruction for nearly three years. It was originally scheduled to be finished more than a year ago. Its completion date was recently pushed to the end of this month.
“These are definitely exciting times,” Heil said. “The opportunity that will open up for so many of our teams in utilizing that stadium is going to be incredible. It’s going to be very good for us.
“The stadium is beautiful. I have to admit that part of me wishes that I’d get to coach in that facility, but I do see it as a great opportunity for our new soccer coaches to begin in a brand-new stadium.”
Peabody Stadium, originally built in 1924, broke ground for its reconstruction on Aug. 23, 2017 at a cost of $39 million — three times more than its original estimated cost of $12.7 million.
High on Heil’s to-do list is the hiring of his successor, as well as coaches for girls soccer and girls softball.
“We do have a great returning class for next season,” he said of the boys soccer team. “Someone is going to get very lucky.”
Heil, who grew up in Yorba Linda and graduated from Esperanza High School, earned a degree in history as well as a coaching credential from UCSB in 1996. He’s taught American history, government and economics at Santa Barbara High.
“I started coaching here under Rudy Ybarra as part of an internship through UCSB’s coaching minor program,” he pointed out. “I definitely learned a lot from Rudy the four years I spent with him.
“I’d be remiss if I didn’t also mention (former soccer) coach Lito Garcia, who was the A.D. at the time and had a great influence on me, as well as Nan Verkaik, who was the A.D. after Lito, and who had a big impact on every student-athlete here.”
Heil succeeded Ybarra as head boys soccer coach in 1999 and won the first of his three CIF-Southern Section championships just two years later. The Dons shared the 2001 title with Brea Olinda High after a 0-0 tie in the final.
“I was fortunate to be able to continue the traditions of Santa Barbara soccer that started in the 1970s with Alfonso Guzman,” he said. “Holding true to those — the Los Nosotros traditions — I’m very proud of that.”
He also won the CIF-SS Division 2 championship in 2010, beating Channel League rival Dos Pueblos 3-0 in the final, and the Division 1 crown in 2018, defeating Cathedral in penalty kicks, 3-2, after a 1-1 stalemate. The National Soccer Coaches Association of America named him as its Coach of the Year for both California and the Far West Region in 2010 and 2011.
Heil was also the first coach from the Santa Barbara Unified School District ever chosen as the CIF Eastbay Model Coach of the Year for the Southern Section, receiving the honor for the 2018-19 school year. The award is given to “a model coach” who “demonstrates and teaches the six core ethical values: trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring, and good citizenship.”
He said he considers it “the highlight of my career” and to be recognized for the things that are “done on a day-to-day basis in helping to educate student-athletes and guide them into doing things the right way.”
Heil and his wife Kachina have two children: a daughter McKenna, 8, and a son Kieran, 6.