Scott Glabb has a gift for gab. Ask him the time, he'll tell you how to build a watch.
So when Glabb, Santa Ana High's wrestling coach, takes even a second to formulate a response, you had better listen.
"My self-worth used to be winning. There was a lot of pressure to win. If I didn't win league, I was a nobody. I had to win league. I had to win league. In order to be someone important, I had to win.
"That's not the case here. My self-worth, who I am, comes from building character in my kids."
Sappy? A bit. Naive? Maybe. Impossible? Well, most would say it was beyond his grasp. You can't change things at Santa Ana, even if you're a rather focused, talk-until-they-give wrestling coach.
Stereotypes being easy, many have asked Glabb about his experiences at Santa Ana. Usually, a bulletproof vest reference was attached.
Glabb returns fire with The Letter. It came from Jerry Jarrett, El Toro's wrestling coach and began, "I am writing this because it needs to be brought to your attention . . . "
Santa Ana Athletic Director Frank Alvarado read that and nearly hyperventilated. What had those kids done?
The letter went on to say how sloppy all the wrestlers had been at El Toro's recent 10-way tournament. Why, it took 2 1/2 hours to clean the bleachers alone.
This wasn't going to be good. Alvarado already was working on the punishment. Then he read on.
One team kept its area clean. Santa Ana. One team stuck around, pushed a few brooms and collected a little garbage. Santa Ana. One team helped load the mats onto the trailer. Santa Ana.
And where was the tournament champion during all this? Right there. Santa Ana.
Any wonder that Alvarado has copies at his fingertips? Before you can blink, in your hand is proof that life at Santa Ana doesn't require the three inches of plexiglass so popular with cabbies.
Of course, this wasn't the case six years ago. Santa Ana didn't receive tournament invitations, let alone letters of commendation.
Then came Glabb's gab. A transplanted Washingtonian, who left the Northwest to be near a now long-gone girlfriend. After two years and one league title at Marina, he went back home to help a friend develop a seminar for troubled teens.
On his way out of town, he dropped off a resume at Santa Ana, where the wrestling job was vacant. Cobwebs were growing three months later and there was only one applicant. Glabb saw why.
"This program was down and out," he said. "Kids would vandalize schools after matches and steal. The team had no respect from others in the county."
Respect is important at Santa Ana. Very important. It was the male athlete stance, Glabb soon found that out. He gave some and demanded some. Things began to change. The aggressiveness was being confined to the mat. He never turned away a kid, but required that they respect themselves.
Glabb's rep became large. Teachers even send him problem students, not to coach, but to counsel. He changed many an attitude, but there was a price.
"I was putting time into the kids' character," Glabb said. "I figured we were never going to win."
But that was OK. There was enough steam to let off.
This year, he has to send a couple kids home early from practice, because their neighborhoods aren't safe after dark. One was jumped while jogging. Another was robbed at gunpoint. Who needed pressure to win?
"Winning was going to take a miracle," Glabb thought when he took the job.
Well, that's just the way life is around Santa Ana--home of the two-time defending Sunset League wrestling champions. Besides, you can't change things at Santa Ana--where Orange County's No. 5 ranked team resides.
Sometimes, talk's not cheap.