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VALLEY / VENTURA COUNTY SPORTS | ERIC SONDHEIMER

She Is the Voice of St. Bonaventure Football

Kathy Mack, Wife of the Coach, Calls Audibles on Every Play for the Seraphs

October 15, 2000|ERIC SONDHEIMER

"Big kick, hard hit; big kick, hard hit; big kick, hard hit."

Right on cue, after the national anthem and before the opening kickoff, Kathy Mack's mouth goes into action.

As her blond ponytail bobs up and down while she paces along the railing in white sneakers at Ventura High's stadium, she screams, yells, pleads and cajoles with a piercing verbal barrage directed at St. Bonaventure football players.

It goes on and on, until the final second of the final play. People staring in the bleachers wonder if Mack should be seeing a psychologist instead of teaching psychology at St. Bonaventure.

Her 7-year-old daughter, Kristin, nicknamed "Critter" because she possesses some of the same wild qualities of her mother, said, "She screams really, really, really loud."

Mack is the kind of wife every football coach dreams of but only Jon Mack of St. Bonaventure is lucky enough to have.

"I can yell louder than Jon, hands down," Kathy said. "After a game, Jon can hardly speak. I never lose my voice. It's a gift--although my kids don't think so."

"Defense, hold that line; defense, hold that line; defense, hold that line."

Kathy graduated from St. Genevieve in 1979, Jon from Notre Dame in 1978. They met as teenagers working at a local pizza restaurant.

"I was his boss," Kathy said. "Jon doesn't take orders well. We kind of co-existed. He's the better pizza maker, but I'm the better sandwich maker. I don't know what happened. I fell in love."

They were married 17 years ago and have three children: Kristin, Jenny, 13, and Justin, 1.

There were some rough times at the beginning. Kathy didn't appreciate Jon spending so much time coaching football at Notre Dame, where he was an assistant coach.

"How can you stand this?" she asked Maureen Rooney, wife of Notre Dame Coach Kevin Rooney. "He's never home."

Rooney offered advice.

"You have to understand this is something he loves," she said. "You have to be able to co-exist. Stop complaining."

Kathy changed overnight.

"The light went on," she said.

She became more than just interested in football--she joined Jon as a partner, taking statistics, watching games, watching game video and becoming a loud, enthusiastic supporter.

When Jon became coach at St. Bonaventure in 1990, Kathy found a group of players who became her second family.

"I know them, I love them, I tutor them," she said. "They're my guys. It's not just Jon's team. I'd take any of them into my home."

"Gimme five, gimme six, gimme a first down."

Mack tells a story of having a bad football dream when he was an assistant coach at Loyola. While in bed, he woke up in a sweat and accidentally head-butted Kathy.

"I was seeing stars," Kathy said. "If he makes noise now, I'm out of the bed."

St. Bonaventure has won an area-leading 20 consecutive games under Mack, in his 11th season as coach.

While Mack's teaching and organizational skills have been critical, Kathy's contributions can't be ignored.

Imagine what it is like going to a summer passing league game and hearing Kathy's voice echo around the field. St. Bonaventure's opponents cringe when they spot her.

"They hate me," she said. "Westlake guys go, 'Oh God, there she is.' "

She's no Raider fan carrying a sickle and spitting out four-letter words. Her support and encouragement is always positive.

"She's that 12th person everybody needs on the team," offensive coordinator Tim Gutierrez said.

During breaks at St. Bonaventure, Kathy can be found working out on a stairmaster watching video from St. Bonaventure's next opponent.

She's so dedicated that her husband sometimes gets pushed out the door at her insistence.

"If Jon isn't scouting, I say, 'What are you thinking? Get after it, Jon,' " she said.

Said Jon: "I couldn't do what I do without her support. It's vital."

"Go Whit! Go Whit! Go Whit!"

One time at the pizza restaurant, Jon got into an argument with some customers. Showing no fear, Kathy jumped on top of one of the combatants.

"She broke up the fight and saved my life," Jon said.

People feel sorry for the Mack's son, Justin. They wonder if the family will have him doing push-ups and jumping jacks before he turns 2.

"That's why God gave Jon two daughters first so he could mellow over time," said Jeff Kraemer, a Notre Dame assistant and long-time family friend.

Family life revolves around football, and the children understand their parents are a little different.

Mom hates to cook but loves to do yard work. Dad loves to cook spaghetti but couldn't mow a lawn to save his life.

The kids are expected to be tough.

"We're not the type when our kids fall down we go pick them up," Kathy said. "I say, 'Shake it off, you can do it.' I've been coaching them from the day they were born."

Jenny will be a freshman at St. Bonaventure next fall. Dad is on the record that if any of his football players want to ask her for a date, it's fine with him. Of course, it's Kathy they're really afraid of.

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