42 years. 

That’s how much time Milpitas High School (MHS) Athletic Director Jeff Lamb has devoted to the Milpitas Unified School District. 

Over a span of 4 decades, he has worn multiple hats: Substitute, Teacher, Coach of various sports. About 26 years ago, he was made Athletic Director, a position he took on with confidence, even though at the time he was also teaching 2 classes and coaching 4 different sports teams. 

Talk about a full plate. 

Now, as the 2018-2019 school year winds to an end, Lamb is set to retire, transitioning out of a long, accomplished career in which he has made a lasting impact on MHS’ athletic department, while also serving as Head Coach for 77 different high school teams, spanning various sports. 

 

How it All Began 

 

Sports defined Lamb’s childhood. He loved being active, and sought to be involved in sports in any way he could. In high school, he played football, basketball, and baseball. 

“I played varsity for football and baseball for all 4 years,” said Lamb. “But I broke my collarbone during my junior year in football. So I didn’t play basketball my last two years there.” 

As a kid, Lamb had always thought of himself as a “good” athlete, but never saw himself venturing into the realm of “great.” However, any time he played a sport, he picked it up very well. 

When he was around 16, his mom asked, “Why don’t you be a coach?”  

Since Lamb knew that his dream of being a professional athlete wasn’t going to come true, he started seriously considering the coaching path…

 

Starting a Career  

 

Flash forward to 1977.

Lamb had just graduated from San Jose State with a BS in Physical Education.

At that time, teachers weren’t in high demand. In fact, just the opposite. 

Lamb recalled that enrollment was declining at the time, since the baby boomer generation hadn’t had kids yet, and were still just getting out of school. Then, in ‘78, Prop 13 passed in California, slashing much-needed school funding. Teachers were being laid off left and right, regardless of how skilled they were or how long they had been on the job. 

“It wasn’t a great time to be coming into education,” said Lamb. 

For the summer after his graduation, Lamb decided to take on a job with Peterbilt Motors, a company out in Newark that built semi trucks. When the summer was over, he asked if he could stay onboard longer, and they obliged. 

But after 2 weeks, he realized he just couldn’t take it anymore. So he quit. 

“It was OK money. I think I was making around 10-plus dollars an hour,” said Lamb. “But I felt really called to use my degree.” 

That’s when Lamb decided to go after substitute teaching gigs. The very first subbing job he got was at Milpitas High School. 

At the time, he was living out in Campbell, and had no idea where Milpitas even was. When he started subbing out here, the whole town was overflowing with orchards, and to him, it seemed like just a tiny blip on the map. 

But he took the job. 

“They were only paying $25 to $30 a day to sub, so it was significantly less than what I had before,” said Lamb. “And also, there was no guarantee you were going to get called. But it was meant to be…

Soon enough, Lamb was being asked to serve as Assistant Swim Coach. Even though he wasn’t much of a swimmer, he didn’t hesitate to say, “Yes.” He knew in his bones that coaching was his path, and that if they needed someone, then he was more than happy to fill the position. 

The following year, he was asked to coach Water Polo, along with Swimming. But soon after, a new teacher was hired and took on those coaching roles, which meant Lamb had to give them up. 

 

Getting into Volleyball 

 

Come ‘79, Lamb was asked to coach Boys’ Freshman Football. However, when he returned from the summer, they had decided to cut Freshman Football altogether, leaving him with no coaching or teaching prospects at MHS.   

“My roommate at the time had just gotten out of college and had sent his resume around,” said Lamb. “Saratoga High School called and asked if he could be a JV Volleyball coach, and he couldn’t do it. So I told him to let them know I would do it.”  

And so began Lamb’s career coaching volleyball, which would actually later continue at MHS and go on to encompass 40 years. 

He coached for 4 years at Saratoga High during the mornings. In the afternoons, he still headed out to Milpitas and subbed. At times, he did some long-term subbing, and would even go across the street to Russell Middle School to teach Math and History. 

Then, after 4 years spent coaching at Saratoga, Jeff Lamb came back to coach in Milpitas. 

“I should’ve come back sooner, because Milpitas paid better than Saratoga,” Lamb noted with a smile. 

At this time, things really started to flow. 

Lamb began really diving in, coaching various sports: volleyball, basketball, softball, baseball, track. 

“People asked me how I got by without a full-time job,” said Lamb. “I would sub during the day, coach in the afternoon, bartend at night, and teach Drivers’ Training on the weekends. I tell people, it was my perfect training to become an Athletic Director.”  

Then it finally happened:

In 1984, Lamb was hired full-time as a teacher.  

Shortly thereafter, in ‘88, Lamb and his then-girlfriend got married and moved to Milpitas. He and his wife have been married for 31 years, and they haven’t moved again.

 

Can’t Say No 

 

Since the mid-90s, Lamb has served on the California State Athletic Directors Association (CSADA). He’s currently the Central Coast Section Vice President, and has even served as President in the past. He’s also the Chairperson for the Central Coast Section Athletic Directors Advisory Committee (CCS-ADA). 

With the help of some colleagues, Lamb also founded a local association for athletic directors, known as the Central Coast Section’s Athletic Directors Association.  

“I haven’t always been the President of that association, but I’ve evolved back into that role,” said Lamb, who admits he has a difficult time saying, “No,” to absolutely anything. However, he seems to enjoy all the many things he’s involved in.  

During his career, Lamb has received various awards and forms of recognition, among them being selected as California State Volleyball Coach of the Year and California State Athletic Director of the Year.

In the entire history of MHS (which has been open since 1969), Lamb has served as the third Athletic Director. He mentioned that that’s pretty unusual, since he knows some schools that have had 10 different athletic directors during the timeframe in which he’s held the position. 

When asked what he’s most proud of, Lamb pointed to all the good work he’s put in: 

“Character is what you do when no one’s looking. Nobody’s perfect and I don’t pretend to be perfect. But I think I’ve done the best I can, whether it’s as an Athletic Director or a Coach,” said Lamb. “I try to be fair with everybody. But you also have to have thick skin because you can’t make everybody happy. And you sure can’t make all the parents happy. That just comes with the territory.” 

Beyond his career, Lamb expressed that he’s most proud of his 2 children, and his marriage with his wife, whom he mentioned has given him tremendous support over the years. Without her support, he feels he would’ve never been able to build his career and pursue all the things that are meaningful to him. 

 

What’s Next? 

 

Milpitas High School Principal Francis Rojas had this to share about Lamb’s retirement: 

“Jeff Lamb is a living legend in the world of high school athletics and I know that even in retirement, his legacy and influence will continue here at MHS, in CCS and beyond, through the systems he has established and developed, mentorships with coaches and other athletic directors, and leadership he has provided at every level of high school athletics. Jeff is a man of integrity and passion — I’ve learned so much from him these last two years through all of the events we have supervised together and our time on the SCVAL and CCS Board of Managers. I will miss his presence here on campus, although I have a feeling he will still be around, and will cherish his continuing mentorship and friendship.”

Many have asked Lamb what he plans to do once he retires. For now, though, he’s content to play it by ear. Although he loves what he does, he knows that at 65 years old, the time is right to walk away: “I have no plans, and I don’t want to have any plans. Some people tell me I can’t go from doing all this to doing nothing. Maybe that’s true, but I don’t want to commit to anything right now.”  

Once he retires, beginning in June, Lamb will move into the position of Recording Secretary for the CSADA Executive Committee, and will also serve as the Workshop Chair and Awards Breakfast Chair for the CCS-ADA.

Just recently, at the Central Coast Section (CCS) Board of Managers meeting, he was given a crystal bowl in commemoration of his service and retirement. It was also announced that a new scholarship was going to be started, for either a girl or boy who wished to go into coaching and/or athletic administration. 

The scholarship’s title? The CCS Jeff Lamb Athletic Leadership Scholarship. 

As it should be. 

Rhoda Shapiro
Rhoda Shapiro works as a journalist and media consultant in the Bay Area. She has written for both the Tri-City Voice and the Mercury News, and is the founder of Chi Media Company, which works with nonprofit organizations to elevate their marketing and communication platforms. Rhoda is also an author; her first book will be published by Llewellyn Worldwide in mid-2019. Her YouTube channel, which features practices in yoga, meditation, and women’s empowerment, has amassed thousands of subscribers. Rhoda is The Milpitas Beat’s founder.

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