FARMINGTON — Farmington High School cuts a striking juxtaposition.
Its complex array of technology, lights, yellow, teal and angled shapes are a stone’s throw away from farms, cornfields, horse stables and big farm houses bordered by classic wooden white fences.
If a spaceship should try and dock at the high school, it would be hard to blame the navigators for mistaking the high school as a space port.
Inside we find the office of Daniel Coats, head football coach.
On this particular July day, his new office is still practically empty except for a large desk, cabinets and three chairs. A woman with an official-looking lanyard around her neck walks in with a box that’s been opened.
“I think these are for you,” she says with a smile.
Coats opens the box and pulls out a black Nike hat emblazoned with a Farmington Phoenix logo on it. And he cracks a smile.
He’s already listed the sheer amount of equipment he had to order to start a football team.
“I order some stuff and I forget 10 things, and I remember five of them and I order those (five) and I forgot a couple more things and I’m like, ‘Crap,’” Coats said. “I’ve been living at the district, ‘I’m so sorry I forgot this, I need this.’”
Among myriad challenges and obstacles that come with opening a new high school are those associated with sports.
How does one create new sports programs with a mix of kids from two other high schools in the county? It’s anything but seamless.
‘After I stopped sleeping, I feel like I have all the time in the world’
April Painter, Farmington’s head volleyball coach, joked that her volleyball coaching career has gone in reverse.
She played at Weber State from 1996-99 as a three-year starter and twice earned All-Academic Big Sky honors, then was an assistant coach under Al Givens from 2000-03.
Since then she’s been an assistant coach at the prep level, including the 2011 Davis state championship team, and the head coach at Syracuse Junior High, but the FHS head coaching job is the first time that she’ll be in charge of a high school program.
The biggest challenge?
The volleyball team ran into a snag with their uniforms. The custom black-and-white sets they ordered won’t arrive until September, at the earliest.
The cross country team also won’t have its uniforms for the start of the season.
This is a glimpse of what happens when a new school opens and the district office is flooded with purchasing requests. There’s no doubt that more, larger-scale hiccups await (someone check the toilets, please).
There’s more than purchasing that goes into building up new programs, though that’s a massive part of it.
There are no traditions at the school yet, no set way of doing things, no baseline. The team room is in the process of being decorated to reflect the volleyball team’s goals.
And then you have to get your name out there as a new head coach meeting a new group of kids and their parents.
“Going out and finding which girls are coming to this school, reaching out to the junior highs and making contacts that way,” Painter said. “It’s a little bit more tricky than I thought it would be.”
Painter said she had around 35 girls in open gym and summer practices. Like every team at the school, her team is composed of mostly sophomores and juniors.
There’s the youth factor — playing essentially a junior varsity team at the varsity level — and a cohesion factor. To make things harder for the volleyball team, its Region 5 schedule features defending state champion Box Elder and the runner-up, Bountiful.
Farmington is not only meshing kids from Davis and Viewmont high schools, but also straight from whichever junior high school kids were at previously.
It’s all created for a busy preparation period.
“After I stopped sleeping, I feel like I have all the time in the world,” Coats said.
“It’s the little things, like the little clip marker that goes on the football chains, who’s going to be the announcer, do you have all of the little pieces of equipment, are all the little things set up? As fun as traditions are it’s tougher when you have to create one of them.”
Patience is Key
At the rate high schools are opening in Davis County, there might be another open house or bond measure around 2028. Before Farmington, Syracuse High was the last to open in the county in 2007.
Syracuse named Russ Jones its head football coach that year. At that point, Jones was a 30-year football coach with assistant coaching stops at Layton, Northridge and Davis before head coaching jobs at Viewmont and Woods Cross.
He described some of the challenges he faced in the run-up to the Titans taking the field for the first time.
“You didn’t have parts to fix helmets, you didn’t have racks to hang helmets,” he said. “The biggest thing was trying to find storage ... there’s a lot of different things you don’t even plan on or think about.”
Syracuse didn’t win a game in 2007. On average that season, the Titans were outscored 29.5 to 8.6. There’s an adjustment period of getting players to mesh and get up to speed on the coach’s expectations.
“The biggest thing is it takes a lot of patience. You know you’re not going through the (first) season and gonna win a lot of games,” Jones said.
But it vastly improved in the second year and Jones said everything was a lot easier. Syracuse went 10-3 and played in the 5A state semifinals in 2008.
Maybe there’s a Davis County curse regarding new football programs.
Northridge went 0-9 in its debut season (1992), and then went 7-2 overall in 1993, coming just two points away from an outright region title (the Knights were 4-1 in Region 1 shared the championship with Layton that year).
In 1977, Woods Cross went 1-8 and followed it with a 4-5 campaign in 1978.
As far as local high schools go, Fremont’s the only one that didn’t occupy the cellar in its first year. The 1994 Silver Wolves went 5-5 and lost by a point in the first round of the playoffs against (ironically) Northridge. The next year, Fremont lost by one point in the 5A state championship game.
So the message for Farmington: patience.
Farmington High’s opening changed the boundaries of Davis, Viewmont, Bountiful, Woods Cross and Layton high schools. That’s more than half the high schools in the district.
FHS draws from Viewmont and Davis, with most kids coming from Viewmont’s former boundary.
Viewmont’s area was essentially cut in half, so its new boundary extends to the southwest into part of Bountiful’s old boundary.
Bountiful’s new boundary extends into part of Woods Cross’ former area. Davis’ new boundary on the north extends into Layton High’s south boundary.
Amid all of that, the fact that hundreds of kids — maybe even north of 1,000 kids — are flat-out switching high schools almost gets forgotten.
“It’s super brave of the kids that did come,” Coats said. “I remember when I was a junior, that was the first year I actually got comfortable with the system, I finally hit my comfort level of, ‘Now I’m ready,’ and to take that away and jump into a whole new situation where it’s all going to be chaos again?”
From an athletics standpoint, sophomore and junior classes at Viewmont and Davis were decreased, so it will affect some teams more than others. The full effects won’t be felt until the next 1-2 years once current sophomores become seniors.
Another tricky situation looms: the coming round of UHSAA realignment.
Farmington is competing in 5A Region 5 this year with Roy, Box Elder and the three south-Davis schools. But its enrollment will dramatically jump next year when the senior class fills out.
The current balance of 6A Region 1 (seven schools) and 5A Region 5 (six schools with Farmington) is ideal, but there’s been talk that FHS would jump to 6A in 2019 under the new realignment.
Would the UHSAA realignment committee approve an eight-team Region 1 while simultaneously keeping a five-team Region 5 in the same area? Could one of the Region 1 schools drop down to 5A if Farmington goes into 6A Region 1?
Or would Farmington and Davis — which by 2019 will be two of, if not the biggest, schools in the county — opt to compete in a region with some of the Salt Lake County schools?
Where Farmington fits or doesn’t fit won’t be known until the realignment committee sees the Oct. 1 enrollment numbers and starts organizing the classifications.
In the meantime, there’s still boxes to unpack, technology to figure out and traditions to create at Farmington High.
No matter which school the students are coming from, they’ll forever be the first.