Coach’s Corner: Larry Yudin

Coach Yudin is in his 22nd year of teaching and 20th year with Duval County. Prior to becoming a teacher, he worked in the private sector for three years after earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Marketing from Valdosta State University.  He decided that a career change was in order and took classes towards teacher certification at Florida Atlantic University. His first teaching position was with Putnam County Public Schools at Crescent City Junior/Senior High School, where he taught eighth-grade social studies courses and was an assistant football coach and track coach.  He earned a Master of Science Degree from Nova Southeastern University and taught special education classes for six years before transitioning back into regular education social studies classes.

During his 20 years with Duval County Public Schools, he has taught three years at Northwestern Middle School, 10 years at Sandalwood (where he was also was an assistant football coach, head wrestling coach and head flag football coach), two years at Darnell-Cookman Middle/Senior High School where he served as the middle school athletic director and the last five years at Mandarin High School, where he teaches American Government and has coached boys football, wrestling, and flag football.

He has two sons who attend Mandarin, one who will graduate this year and a sophomore who will graduate in 2019.  I was able to speak to Coach Yudin about his coaching career and his life recently for In the Game Magazine.

What is your coaching background?  My coaching career began in 1991 when I was taking classes at FAU and volunteered as a wrestling coach at a high school in Broward County. I helped coach two state champions and multiple state qualifiers for a team that was one of the strongest in the area at the time and had battles with another high school coached by Brian Smith, the longtime head wrestling coach at the University of Missouri. There is a gap in my career while I finished up classes and I resumed my coaching career in 1994, when I began teaching at Crescent City Junior/Senior High School and coached pretty much the whole defense for the junior high team. I also coached throwers in track. My true background is in wrestling, and I coached wrestling for 12 years, one at Stanton, nine at Sandalwood, and two at Mandarin. I also coached linebackers for the football teams at Sandalwood and Mandarin. I discovered girls’ flag football at Sandalwood and jumped at the chance to coach that; I have been coaching it since 2005.

Having been a coach at rival Sandalwood, do you tend to get up more for Sandalwood when your teams play them as opposed to other teams?  I would have to say that when I first arrived at Mandarin, I would be much more pumped up when we played Sandalwood because I took some heat from my Sandalwood friends for transferring to Mandarin as opposed to returning to Sandalwood after things at Darnell-Cookman did not pan out. Now, most of my coaching friends have moved on to other schools or have left coaching altogether, so I just approach our games with Sandalwood as another game that we will play and try to win.
Where are you from and why/when did you move to Jacksonville?  I grew up in New Jersey and moved to Jacksonville in December of 1982 as a junior in high school. I graduated from Wolfson in 1984. We left New Jersey and moved to Jacksonville because my parents bought into a business with family and this is where it happened to be. For me personally, it was a good move.

To date, what are some of you proudest moments in your coaching career?  Results wise, some of my proudest moments are coaching one of my Sandalwood wrestlers in two state wrestling finals matches in 2003 and 2004. That wrestler went on to compete in a season of “The Ultimate Fighter” and made it about halfway through the competition. Also, giving the beastly Mandarin wrestling team a run for their money in the 2005 Gateway Conference tourney before placing second as a team. In flag football, coaching the Sandalwood Saints to the Gateway title in the inaugural Conference tourney in 2006 and helping coach the Mandarin flag football team to a State Runner-Up finish in 2013. I am most proud of my athletes who go on to college, not so much to compete, but to earn a degree and become successful in their chosen careers.

Can you tell me about this year’s flag team and what we can expect?  I can tell you that we were able to recruit more multi-sport athletes this year. We have volleyball, basketball, and soccer players, as well as a current and some former track athletes. We are faster and more coachable. There is more cohesiveness to this year’s squad than before. After winning multiple Conference and District titles, we fell off a bit last year. I believe that we will be in the running to compete and possibly bring those titles back to Mandarin this year. We are in a very competitive district with Fleming Island, Sandalwood, and Fletcher, so we have our work cut out for us.

Having been a boys football coach also, was it easy or hard to adapt to the flag football rules? I don’t think adapting to the rule variations was difficult. I am a quick study on the rules and the terminology is the same; only the applications are slightly different. The hardest things for me to adapt to were adjusting my coaching style from boys to girls. Sometimes, girls don’t respond well to criticism unless they are coming from a competitive background. The animated style of coaching from my younger days of boys’ football has evolved to a bit more relaxed style as I have coached girls’ flag over the years. My response would probably be refuted by others who you may talk to!

Not only are you the girls’ flag football coach, I understand that you referee another sport as well?  That is true. I have been a high school wrestling referee on and off for 11 years. I have been involved with the sport of wrestling in some way since I was 13. When I stepped away from coaching wrestling in 2009, I went back to officiating. I only went back to coaching for Mandarin until they could find a permanent coach. I felt that I had done everything that I wanted to as a coach, but I did not want to walk away from wrestling totally. Officiating wrestling allows me to give back to the sport that helped shape me as a person. As long as my knees and back hold out, I will keep officiating wrestling.

When you are not coaching or refereeing what do you like to do in your spare time? When I am not involved in coaching or refereeing, and the weather is good, I like to ride my motorcycle. Riding helps me relax and take in nature; I ride along the river, down to St. Augustine or Daytona, or up to Fernandina. As a history buff, I like to stop at historical sites and walk around, and then ride some more and stop for something to eat. I also read anything that interests me. I am a big fan of Stephen King and lately, I have been reading historical nonfiction. As we get closer to summer, I have been trying to spend some more time with the family, as our oldest will be graduating and heading down to Gainesville for college.

Coaches Corner / North Florida / April-May 2016
Larry Yudin- Flag Football
Mandarin High School
Jacksonville, Florida
By Corey Davis