Todd Bridge recently completed his third season as North Beach High School’s head football coach. State-ranked for most of the season, the Hyaks fell one win shy of their first state playoff berth since 2004. An all-state football lineman and state track champion in the throwing events at Montesano High School prior to his 1988 graduation, Bridge was a reserve offensive lineman at the University of Washington. The 44-year-old Bridge teaches social studies and weight training at North Beach. He and his wife, Christina, have four children, Caleb, Seth, Benjamin and Sarah.
Football turnout numbers were really low at North Beach when you took over. What types of things have you tried to emphasize in attempting to build the program?
Our numbers are still very low. I believe in building quality before quantity. If we put a well-prepared, disciplined team out on the field of play, other young men will be attracted to it, see the value in paying the price and want to be part of something that is both special and successful.
Currently, North Beach is still in the program-building mode. We have a long way to go in order to compete at the highest level.
While you had previously been an assistant coach and athletic director, you had never been a head coach prior to taking the North Beach job. What’s been the biggest adjustment you’ve had to make to that role?
I promised my wife when we first got married not to be a head coach until our children were older and stable in their own development. When the North Beach position became available, she gave me the go-ahead because our oldest son was coming into the program.
Adjustment-wise, I’ve had to learn how to deal with the critics. That was difficult at first and still is. Realizing that community members and parents have the best intentions for their child is important for any coach to grasp and appreciate.
You played on some of the greatest University of Washington teams ever. What, in your view, made those teams successful?
(Head coach) Don James made those teams successful. He was a coaches’ coach, meaning he taught coaches how to interact and effectively teach on the field.
Coach James was a lot of things, but I had some great mentors in high school as well, including my father, Steve Bridge, Jim Conn, Dave Tobin and Bo Griffith. That list of mentors, coupled with the likes of Don James, is a mind-boggling compilation of coaches/educators.
On top of that, the camaraderie between teammates I had at the UW made our teams just a little bit better than some of the other James-era teams. Besides, we were loaded with guys who would go on to play on Sundays.
Don James recently passed away. What do you remember most about him?
One of the focal points of his recent memorial was a quality no one could easily pinpoint — his ability to walk into a room and immediately be the focal point of attention. It was his power of presence.
Growing up as an avid Dawg fan, I revered the man like no other person. When we flew back to the White House to meet President George H.W. Bush, there was that same feeling, to a lesser extent, when the president walked into the Yellow Room — just not quite as much of a Don James aura, at least for me.
Anything you’ve tried to borrow from James in your coaching style?
The one aspect I’ve tried to maintain from Coach James is attention to detail. The fine-tuning of steps for an offensive lineman, the critical reads for a linebacker — the little things that are often overlooked.
Those are the details to which Coach James paid the most attention. Success is in the details and I would like to think, to a lesser degree, I emulate him in that regard.
What have been the biggest changes in high school football since you played?
The speed and size of the athletes have changed. Advanced weight room equipment, specified training programs available at the touch of a finger and comprehensive nutritional education all provide the modern athlete with superior advantages.
Mix in the fact that my generation of coaches were the first group who ferociously trained our bodies back when we were players, we modern coaches have the know-how and are creating athletes who are much larger, stronger and faster than the players of the previous generation.