Tom Petithomme, Napa High School’s new athletic director, said he decided to pursue teaching as his career when he returned to his alma mater as a volunteer coach on the football staff.
Petithomme was playing for the San Jose SaberCats of the Arena Football League at the time when he went to work at Grace M. Davis High School in Modesto to help out the football program.
He said he “ended up falling in love with coaching and working with student athletes.”
Petithomme will be leaving Wood High in Vacaville after one year, where he was an assistant football coach, the head golf coach, and a P.E. and freshman focus instructor, to join the staff at Napa High.
“When people like Tom come in, and you see eyes light up about what we have here, I think it just reminds you how special we are,” said Annie Petrie, Napa’s principal. “Napa High’s a special place. Our kids are amazing.”
Petrie announced Petithomme’s hiring. It’s the first time that Petithomme has been an athletic director. He went through the interview process with school officials.
“At a comprehensive high school like Napa High School, where athletics is a huge part of our school community, it’s a really important position,” Petrie said last week. “Our coaches look to an athletic director to lead them.”
Petithomme will replace Thomas Sims, who resigned from the position after a year of leading the athletic department. Sims said he is stepping down in order to spend more time with his family. Sims, a 2004 Napa High graduate, who was the Player of the Year on All-Napa County and All-Monticello Empire League football teams as a running back-middle linebacker, will continue as an English teacher on the staff.
Petithomme, who will also teach two P.E. classes, said he is excited for the opportunity to help build on Napa High’s tradition in sports.
“Napa High has always had a really good, strong sports program,” he said. “I think every successful athletic program needs to be proactive and progressive and constantly changing with the times. I think Napa High is doing a great job of that. I’m just proud to be a part of that and to help assist with that.”
“I’m going to be the athletic director who encourages students to go out for sport, be a part of the school, be vested in your school, have school pride, and if you can do that, student achievement is going to go up, morale is going to go up, school climate is going to be positive.”
Napa, along with Vintage and American Canyon from the Napa Valley Unified School District, will be leaving the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section after the 2017-18 school year and will move into the North Coast Section starting in the fall.
Napa, Vintage, Justin-Siena and American Canyon high schools will begin playing in the Vine Valley Athletic League starting in the fall. The league also includes Sonoma Valley, Petaluma and Casa Grande-Petaluma.
The CIF North Coast Section Board of Managers voted unanimously last October to approve a proposal to group Napa, Vintage, American Canyon, Justin-Siena, Sonoma Valley, Petaluma and Casa Grande into a league together starting with the 2018-19 school year.
The move returns Napa and Vintage to the North Coast Section, where they were members through the 1975-76 school year.
“I think the new Vine Valley league is going to be great for Napa schools, with the close proximity of the other schools that are in the area,” said Petithomme, 45, who will be attending league and NCS meetings and athletic booster club meetings.
Said Petrie, “It’s just an exciting time for Napa High, moving into a new league, a new section. We have a great coaching staff and they’re really excited about next year. They’re excited just about all the new opportunities for our student athletes.”
Football, teaching background
Petithomme is a 1990 Grace M. Davis High graduate and played fullback. He played one year of football at Modesto Junior College as a fullback, then transferred to San Jose State on a football scholarship, where he played tight end and fullback.
He was drafted by the Las Vegas Posse, an expansion team in the Canadian Football League. He left the Posse after one year due to an injury.
Petithomme played five years in the Arena Football League – three seasons for the San Jose SaberCats (1995-96, 1999) starting out as a receiver, two seasons for the New Jersey Red Dogs (1997-98) and one season for the Iowa Barnstormers (1998).
The SaberCats moved Petithomme to fullback and linebacker.
Petithomme graduated from Stanislaus State with a degree in criminal justice. He got his state teaching credential there also.
He taught health and P.E. for 10 years at Terra Nova High School in Pacifica.
He taught for four years at Central Middle School in San Carlos.
Home away from home
Petithomme and his wife, Kelsey Petithomme, who works as the early childhood special education director for the Napa County Office of Education, live in Napa with their children, Lyla, 6, and Jake, 4.
“This is the ideal situation for my family and I,” said Tom Petithomme. “This is where we plan on settling for a long time and raising our kids. Napa High School is going to be my home away from home, and it’s only three minutes away.”