The562’s coverage of Long Beach Poly athletics in the 2022-23 school year is sponsored by Poly alum Jayon Brown and PlayFair Sports Management.
The562’s coverage of Long Beach Poly athletics in the 2022-23 school year is sponsored by JuJu Smith-Schuster and the JuJu Foundation.
Long Beach Poly football coach Stephen Barbee received a pair of major honors this month, as both local NFL franchises feted him as their Coach of the Year. The Rams and Chargers both honored Barbee for a historic season leading the Jackrabbits which saw Poly return to the national rankings for the first time in six years, with multiple senior All-Americans and televised games under the brightest spotlight. The Jackrabbits also passed Bakersfield High to become California’s all-time winningest high school football program earlier this season.
It’s become Barbee’s custom to refuse credit when presented with individual awards, and he continued that tradition in a recent interview.
“All these awards are for the program obviously, for our assistant coaches and our players who work so hard,” he said. “The money will all be put back to Long Beach Poly and will be well-used. That’s a big help for our program since we don’t charge our kids for anything.”
The Chargers and Rams both honored Barbee in a major way at games this month. The Chargers had all of their Coaches of the Week attend a game last weekend--a group that included Jordan coach Jon Nielsen. Barbee was then selected as the LA County Coach of the Year, honored on the big screen at SoFi Stadium and presented with a check for a donation to the Poly program.
Barbee said he was especially grateful that the Chargers let him bring some assistant coaches and players, including seniors Dom Lolesio and Dylan Michel.
“That was special, we got to run out and be a part of the presentation,” he said.
The Rams have also nominated Barbee for an additional national award, making him their nomination for the Don Shula NFL High School Coach of the Year. That means Barbee is up against 31 other coaches across the country, with each franchise nominating someone. The winner and runner-up both receive a five-figure donation to their programs, with the award announced as part of the NFL Honors presentation that includes its major awards for NFL players this season.
Poly has some history with the NFL High School Coach of the Year Award. The modern history of the Don Shula honor begins in 2010 when it was officially named after the Dolphins coaching legend. But the NFL has been honoring a High School Coach of the Year for decades, and Poly great Don Norford was an honoree--he’s still the only assistant coach in history to receive the honor.
“You don’t get into coaching for the awards, but it’s amazing to see that you’ve had an impact and be considered,” said Barbee. “Both teams have been great to Long Beach Poly and the community in general, I’m proud to represent them both. It’s a blessing to be able to represent Long Beach and Poly,”
Barbee and Poly boys’ athletic director Rob Shock are already very busy in the Fall during football season, but both also volunteered to coach the school’s inaugural girls’ flag football team this year, a trial season with the CIF set to add it as an official sport next year. That meant practices before school and games on weekends, fit into the already hectic schedule of a tackle football season.
“Shock and me were both happy to help and proud to get that going,” said Barbee. “That was huge for the girls and huge for Poly.”