CAMPBELL, Calif. - Friday at Campbell’s Westmont High School, it’s Seniors Night. And no senior is more deserving of honor than long-time coach Taka "Sugi" Sugimoto.
"It’s just a joy to see her walk out there every single day. Every day she comes she’s prepared, she’s ready to go," said Westmont Athletic Director Adam Perez.
Since the end of the Jimmy Carter administration, Coach 'Sugi' as she’s affectionately called, has lived the Warriors creed at Westmont High. Her four-decade run started in the dugout for the softball team, and ends on the sidelines during Friday night’s final home badminton match.
"It’s mixed emotions. I know that she’s really enjoyed what she does. And I really think it keeps her young," said her daughter, Stacy Berg.
Along the way, Sugimoto racked up titles, memories, and the adoration of generations of players.
"She’s just a very good coach. Very supportive. And after every game, she picks us up regardless of win or lose. She always gives us tips on how to improve and it’s just great being with her," said Ben Heyfitch, a junior Westmont badminton team member.
Coach "Sugi" shuns the spotlight, and didn’t think it would cause a fuss when earlier this year, she walked into the athletic director’s office and said it was time to retire. The coach, is months shy of turning 90 years old.
"She came in apologetic, telling me she’s gonna step down. But you know, telling me that she’s 90 and it might be a good time. And I said I completely understand," said Perez.
Perez admits he wasn’t born when coach "Sugi" started at the school. More than four decades later, she has a student body full of fans who say life won’t be the same without her.
I don’t know how it’ll be without her. Since I’ve been on the team, she’s always been my coach. So it’ll be touch," said Heyfitch. Added Perez, "She’s kind of a staple on our campus…It’s gonna be tough not having her next year."
Retirement for the coach and school could look a lot like game day, because there’s word she plans to return periodically – a Warrior always.
Jesse Gary is a KTVU reporter based in the station’s South Bay Bureau. Follow him on Twitter @JesseKTVU and Instagram jessegontv