Hired by Arcadia High School as the head football coach in May 2020, Sims is finally getting to coach the Apaches after a year full of bumps and bruises for everyone involved in the program.
It is hard to find someone who is more engulfed in the San Gabriel Valley sports community than Antyone Sims. Growing up in the area, Sims played football for John Muir High School. He went on to attend Pasadena City College, where he played for the Lancers. Most recently, he attended Azusa Pacific to receive his master’s degree in physical education with an emphasis in sports management.
Professionally, that trend looks much of the same. He remained committed to football within the valley, and he has built a career in coaching that has lasted over the span of a decade. His first gig was for his alma mater; he was hired as an assistant for Muir’s staff under headman John Hardy. However, Hardy stepped down after three successful campaigns, which led to Sims being promoted to the head coaching role in 2015.
“It was the best achievement of my career up to that point,” said Sims on the hire. “To be able to coach at a place where I learned so many important skills and lessons, and to have the chance to reciprocate those same things that were taught to me to a group of hungry young men. It was an awesome experience and opportunity.”
His time with the team was embodied through steady progressions year after year. In his first season at the helm, the Mustangs earned a lackluster record of 4-6. In their following season they improved that win-loss differential to 6-4, and the next year another improvement with a 7-3 finish. However, when new athletic director Alfredo Resendiz took the position, he released Sims and brought in Zaire Calvin.
Sims’ next pitstop was accepting an assistant coaching position for Pasadena City College, while Calvin led the Mustangs to the CIF-SS Division 11 semifinals — which was further than the team had ever gone under Sims’ tenure. The competitor in Sims was frustrated with the sudden departure, yet he quickly remembered why he loves coaching: not for personal pride, but to help his players grow into bright young men.
“As a competitor I was disappointed that someone felt I did not do a good enough job to continue,” Sims told the San Gabriel Valley Tribune last year. “I had a little bit of bitter feelings initially, but then I had to understand why I’m in the coaching game, to help kids. Whether they were right or wrong for letting me go only time will tell, but I’ve moved on.”
Luckily for Sims, that mindset, along with the people he met throughout his football career, was the reason he was given another chance to be a head coach for an impressive high school program in the SGV.
Satisfying his role as an assistant for PCC, his friend and former Lancer teammate Andrew Policky was the head coach of Arcadia High’s football team at the time. He had just led the team to a trip to the CIF-SS Division 8 finals in 2018, yet with that team losing several of their senior core the following season, the 2019 season ended in a 4-6 record where it became clear that a rebuild was in the process. Policky after that season tendered his resignation, which left Arcadia’s athletic director, Milica Protic, looking for a replacement in 2020.
Protic was the longtime athletic director for John Muir, and she was impressed by the way Sims handled the rebuilding process during his tenure with the Mustangs. Realistically, it was an easy choice for Protic — so she made the call.
“During our time at Muir, we were able to build a personal and professional relationship. And she liked what I did with that program,” recalled Sims. “She saw how my staff and I were able to take Muir’s program and build it from the ground up. And she mentioned that she enjoyed the way I mentor and guide young men. She wanted that sort of approach for Arcadia’s program as well.”
Since being announced as the head coach for the Apaches, it has been a whirlwind of emotions for Sims and his team. With the magnificent level of uncertainty among all high school athletics being a year-long reality, he was hired during the height of that conundrum in May. Like so many other high school coaches, he waited for updates on when and how his team could return on the field, and even when they received answers it remained a frustrating period as regulations made even the simplest things difficult.
To make matters worse for the program, several days after their season opener was announced against Sims’ former team for March 19, one of the program’s players tested positive for COVID-19. The team was forced to endure a two-week-long quarantine period during which both the game against Muir and their second contest of the season against Burbank High were canceled. It was a time of incredible confusion, as Arcadia’s program was the first in Los Angeles County to experience an immediate cancellation, following the return to athletics in February, due to COVID-19 reasons.
“It was so challenging. We couldn’t share balls. A lot of the drills we use to teach tackling fundamentals and hand placements, we were unable to do. And when you can’t do those sort of things it becomes more difficult to keep the guys’ attention,” he said.
It took until the start of April for the Apaches to get back on the field and compete. The game did not favor Sims’ team, as Arcadia dropped their opening game to Pasadena by a score of 29-7. The Bulldogs have been one of the more surprising stories in the county’s high school football scene. The win propelled them to 3-0 on the season, as running back Daylon Beasley has been the chief of their offensive attack. When returning from a leave of absence, where COVID restrictions were even stricter than before, playing a sudden powerhouse left the Apaches in a very difficult spot.
Nevertheless, despite the losing result, Sims and his team were just excited to be on the field again. And with that, the team was also given the opportunity to play inside the iconic Rose Bowl — a first for several of Sims’ new players.
“When you think of the Rose Bowl you think of Heisman Trophy winners and Super Bowl champions. Some of the greatest players to ever play the game strapped on their cleats and played ball on that field,” said Sims. “A lot of football players never got the chance to play in that stadium, but my guys did. And it was an amazing opportunity for them.”
It is likely that Arcadia will play in the Rose Bowl once more this season when they travel to play Muir, which is a game that has yet to be rescheduled. The Apaches’ next game, though, will be an away contest against Burroughs on Friday night, looking to secure their first victory of the season.
Yet, Sims and his team have gone through such a treacherous few months that the results are secondhand to the experience. Right now, the team is just grateful to finally be lining up on the field, giving the team a brief feeling of normalcy for the time being.
“We just stuck through those eight months of uncertainty and we’re finally getting the chance to start playing again,” said Sims with a sigh of relief. “I’m so proud of the kids that fought through the whole thing and continued to show up and remained patient during everything that happened. Their patience finally is starting to pay off, and we’re beyond excited to continue playing this season because we quickly learned that you’ll never know when it can get taken away from you.”