Jul 29, 2014
66°
Partly Cloudy

Basketball Star Coach: Jeannette Bumagat

'Coach J' spends 70-80 hours a week coaching the AAU South Bay Scholars as well as a high school team in Mountain View—but coaching doesn't end for her off the court. 

Basketball Star Coach: Jeannette Bumagat

A petite woman in black heels paces along the sideline of a basketball court, focused on the players, shouting, "Go strong!" "Move the ball!" and "Watch the corners!” 

She crouches down on the sideline as she talks to the players, making sure they're on their game. As she's watching and talking, she gets a little too close to the court, and the referee calls her out on it. The woman grins and jokingly says to the ref, "I was trying to get in." 

A Milpitas resident, Jeannette Bumagat—"Coach" to her players—is the head of the South Bay Scholars of AAU Boys and Girls Basketball, which she started four years ago with 10 players and has grown to 150 today. 

Her family of players is so big that Milpitas parent Kelly Kitzumi said, "She goes to a [high school] game and everyone knows her. She's like a celebrity."

Her prodigy and oldest daughter, Jalaena Bumagat, is a freshman at Milpitas High School and the point guard/shooting guard for the varsity girls basketball team. 

"Sometimes when I'm watching my mom coach and the way she runs things, it makes me want to consider coaching as a profession when I get older,” she said. 

Jalaena said she admires what her mom has been able to do, not only for the family, but for other people as well.

Bumagat and the 11 other coaches for the South Bay Scholars volunteer their time.

"It's exciting to work with these kids," Bumagat said. "I get to see them grow, not just as athletes, but as people too. That's how I get paid. That's how I tell people I get paid."

Aside from her position as freshman girls basketball coach at Saint Francis High School in Mountain View, Bumagat has turned down paid job opportunities, because she felt that if she took those jobs, in the back of her mind, she would worry about what would happen to her kids. 

Bumagat prides herself on stepping up all her players' athletic abilities as well as their academics. 

"I always tell people we could be called the Hardwood Ballers, or the Heat or the Renegades, but I think the name is very important. That's why I chose the Scholars, because a scholar is someone who embraces learning," Bumagat said.

"You could be a scholar and not play basketball, but academics is very important for me, and I've said if I didn't have a strong academic background and they took my scholarship, I wouldn't be where I am today," she said.

When Bumagat was a junior in high school, her knee popped out of place, and her scholarships to college were taken away.

Bumagat started playing basketball as a kid in Oceanside, by going to the park and playing pick-up games.

"I was very busy doing business, so she got involved in sports," said her mother, Van "Mamacita" Jackson, who helps with the administrative side of AAU South Bay Scholars.

In high school, Bumagat's high school basketball coaches embraced teaching her, knowing her eagerness to learn, she said.

"I had four high school coaches, who basically took care of me," she said. "They made sure I ate and made sure I got to practices, if that meant they had to pick me up from my house and drop me off."

Coaching is not only a way to keep herself in the game, but also a way to repay her own coaches, she said.

"At that time, I could have took it as just doing whatever I wanted to do, but I felt like everything happens for a reason," she said. She decided if she couldn't play basketball, she would coach it, she said. 

That's what Bumagat has been doing for that past 15½ years. 

Kelly Kitzumi, a Milpitas parent, said Bumagat is very structured and focuses not only on fundamentals of basketball, but life lessons. 

"She treats the kids like family," said Kitzumi. "(She's) someone who has a really positive influence on my son."

Bumagat said it was difficult for her to embrace the fact that the boys would want to play for a female coach when there are so many male coaches out there who can make them better athletes. 

"When I talk to them, they tell me that no one motivates them the way that I can," she said. "And I think that it's because I am a female that I have natural mother instincts is why they cling to me, and I don't mind that at all.

"My basketball goes beyond the game when it comes to these kids," she said. "My coaching is way different from other coaches, because I care about the kids as people first before I expect them to win a game."

She said her schedule is busy, from the moment she wakes up and takes her kids to school. "I'm working on rosters. I'm working on team schedules. I'm working on tournaments. And some of the kids go through problems at home, so I'll spend hours on the phone talking to them and getting their minds straight."

Some of the original kids she started with have now graduated or are about to, including one who was in trouble with the law, had bad grades, got into fights and had a very bad temper.

"I told him that if he got into any of that stuff while playing under me, he would be removed from the program," she said. "Until this day, he hasn't been in any fights and he's about to graduate, which was something that we didn't think could happen for him, so I know that the program has changed his life."

Ray Jay Peralta, 18, was that boy. He said the program has helped him both as a person and as a basketball player. 

"I had a troubled past, and Coach is more like a mentor and a coach to me," he said. "My grades use to be really bad, and she helped get me on the right track and taught me little stuff in life that I needed to know. On the court, she helped me become a more mature player—not so cocky. I grew up faster being with her."

Peralta, who has been playing basketball since the third grade, said most coaches are just coaches on the court, but Bumagat is like a mom, too.

"She takes care of us like we're her own kids," he said. 

Peralta has received a scholarship to play basketball overseas after he graduates from high school. 

"My goal in coaching you is not to teach you basketball; my goal is to teach you life lessons through basketball," Bumagat always tells her players. "And if you learn something about basketball, it's just a bonus."

Don’t miss updates from Patch!