Lessons in layups

Volunteer Dan Pierce, right, cheers on his team during a game. Pierce has been a coach for the Boys and Girls Club of Sonoma Valley for 6 years.
(Crista Jeremiason / The Press Democrat)

Volunteer basketball coach from Glen Ellen helps his team members learn, grow and have fun


Glen Ellen firefighter Dan Pierce for the past six years has coached boys’ basketball for the Boys and Girls Clubs of Sonoma Valley.

It is a program that emphasizes learning and growing, and a philosophy that de-emphasizes competition, although being competitive is somewhat unavoidable, said Pierce, 53, a Sonoma resident.

“We try to emphasize that we don’t care about the score, we want to see improvement, and the score is reflexive of that,” Pierce said. “But the kids are aware of the score, they want to win. Anyone who has played athletics, it gets instilled.

“But I try to keep that out, there will be enough of that as time goes on. My words to them are we want to have fun and we want to teach you some skills,” Pierce said.

For his work, Pierce was awarded the Boys and Girls Clubs Star Award at the recent Sonoma Valley Fund’s ceremony honoring volunteers.

“He has a caring approach with the kids and an ability to help them have a great experience and enjoy athletic participation,” said Dave Pier, chief executive officer for the Boys and Girls Clubs.

“It is how he has done it and how he has approached it. It mirrors the club’s core values and what we are trying to accomplish, words like integrity, excellence, respect and accountability.”

The Sonoma Valley club serves 2,200 children a year, of which 550 will attend on any given day at five club sites, and sports is an integral part.

“Our program is intramural, the idea is kids acquire some skills and play some competitive games, but it is about sportsmanship and being on a team,” Pier said.

Pierce, who coaches a team of third-, fourth- and fifth-grade boys, started six years ago when his oldest son, Mason, wanted to play basketball.

After three years coaching Mason, Pierce continued coaching his twin sons, Jamie and Dusty, in the program.

Pierce said it has been a gratifying experience.

“You see these kids develop and grow, you go out there and teach them a few things, develop some life skills in the process,” Pierce said. “They are learning not just basketball — I doubt any will go to the NBA — but … something that will help them down the road.”

Pierce said he loves the kids and usually ends up as sweaty as they are after practice.

“They keep you young,” Pierce said. “I can go out there and become a third-through-fifth-grader really quickly. I am not a good stand-there coach, I am usually running around with them.”

Pierce said he is now facing a choice, whether to volunteer to coach at Sonoma Valley High School, where Mason is going to school, or remain

at the Boys and Girls Clubs as his twin sons move into the higher league.

“I can’t imagine not coaching. I don’t know exactly where, probably at the Boys and Girls Club, but I will coach somewhere next year, if they will have me,” Pierce said.

(You can reach Staff Writer Bob Norberg at 521-5206 or bob.norberg@pressdemocrat.com.)