History teacher and former coach takes over as athletic director


Jack Fedota, Staff Writer

New Athletic Director William Taylor is looking to make big changes in Rio’s sports programs. 

Taylor inherited the part-time position this year when the previous AD, Malaya Cabrera, decided to teach English full-time. But he already has plans to address some of the biggest issues facing each sport, including advocating for a stadium and responding to the biggest complaints he hears from students.

Taylor grew up in Turlock and attended Turlock High before moving on to Long Beach State. He was a standout water polo player in high school and was even a part of a team that made it all the way to sectional championships. Taylor played a little bit of water polo in college but stopped as he felt the jump from high school to college was a much bigger commitment.

 Taylor has been teaching at Rio since 1998, making this school year his 25th. Many students today know him as their sophomore World History or junior U.S. History teacher, a subject he still teaches for two periods this year. 

But past students may remember him as their water polo, or soccer coach as well. 

In fact, when Taylor first came here he was the head coach of the boys water polo team and stayed as the coach for eight years before moving on to coaching boys and girls soccer. 

Taylor’s true inspiration to become a coach is credited to his high school water polo coach, who he described as having a “legendary” status. 

Despite the extra work, Taylor discovered many benefits from coaching, including developing relationships with students and “learning how to be a more effective communicator.” 

Coaching also provided an outlet for Taylor’s competitive side and learned that it’s better to be encouraging than intense. 

“At first I was super fiery and super intense and had really high expectations,” he said. “But then I really learned how to coach and I think my most successful seasons weren’t the most talented teams, but them coming together, and believing in each other, and believing in the system, and what we were doing, it made for a lot of success.” 

Aside from his role as teacher, coach and now athletic director, Taylor has other strong ties to Rio. His wife, Andi Ocken-Taylor teaches English at the school, and his son and daughter are graduates. Aidan (class of 2018) played baseball, and Darby (2021) played volleyball.

Taylor has a unique view on the changes that have been made in high school sports as he was a high school athlete for all four years playing water polo. When asked about the major differences he’s seen in sports, he said, “For kids, the specialization of sports starts way earlier.” 

Taylor remembers that when he was playing sports in high school it really just “depended on what was in season.” But with kids concentrating on sports and playing year round from an early age, it makes it difficult to even make a high school team unless you have prior experience at a competitive level. 

But Taylor still thinks sports can do more than improve athletic ability; participating also builds character. “Sports are about failure a lot of the time,” he said. “It’s about working hard, putting the effort in, and sometimes losing and having to deal with it.” 

Some of the issues Taylor must deal with as AD include players not being eligible due to grades, parents being upset with the switch to online ticket buying, and of course, the major issue he hears from the students is the lack of a football stadium. 

In 2019, Rio completed construction on a new turf football field and year-round track surrounding it. But since that time, Rio has never held a Friday night game at home because of a lack of seating and lighting, something Taylor hopes to change.

“We’re dependent on the district,” he said, “but I will fight for that and it’s one of those things that before I leave I would love to have done.” 

It’s a top priority to “build a facility that reflects the number of athletes we have here, the demand we have for sports, and for the spirit we have on campus,” Taylor has a lot on his plate stepping into this position but Rio students can be sure that he’s going to do everything in his power to address the issues that we have today.