A chance to volunteer coach at a Seattle-area high school sparked his spirit, decided coaching would be life’s calling

Rowe High School Coach Shaun Tarantolo. Photo by TJ Garcia.


McALLEN – Shaun Tarantola wasn’t sure what he wanted to do with life after he graduated from high school about two decades ago in Washington state.

“Well I thought when I was in high school, I thought I was going to either get drafted by the NFL or the first round of the NBA,” the undersized Tarantola said laughing. “I realized quickly after graduating high school that wasn’t the case.”

Without a backup plan, Tarantola, now McAllen Rowe’s offensive coordinator and assistant track coach, did not know what to do. So he enrolled in college and took classes for two years. Then he left school and jumped into the workforce full time for two years in the Seattle area. One day, a co-worker who was a coach at a local high school noticed his big football brain and encouraged him to volunteer coach for the team.

So he did. He coached for about a month, and it was during that time he had a life-changing epiphany.

“So right then, you talk about people getting a sense of purpose in life or just realizing what their purpose is, I really felt that connection when I started coaching,” Tarantola said. “Just the volunteer experience for that one season. I just realized this what I am meant to do.”

He went back to college and finished up as quickly as possible and then got hired as an assistant. He later worked his way up to head football coach.

Not many would argue that Seattle is a great city and that the Puget Sound region is one of the most picturesque in the country. But Seattle, home to Microsoft, Amazon, Starbucks, Costco and Boeing, is one of the most expensive, traffic-choked and rainy areas of the country.

So he and his wife put up their GTT sign (Gone To Texas), sold their home and moved here three years ago. Coaching travels well. Welcome to the RGV.

Coach’s Corner is an occasional profile of a McAllen ISD assistant coach. 

  • NAME: Shaun Tarantola
  • AGE: 41
  • SCHOOL: McAllen Rowe
  • CURRENT JOB: Football offensive coordinator and assistant track coach
  • ALSO WORKED AT: Juanita High (Kirkland, Washington), Mission High
  • PERSONAL: Married to Amy Newport. Children: Olivia,7; Natalie, 5; and Jack, 2.
  • GRADUATED FROM: Central Washington University
  • COACHING ON VARSITY LEVEL: Since 2001 in Washington state
  • CELEBRITY PLAYER HE COACHED: Tim Lincecum, former SF Giants pitcher
  • WHY HE GOT INTO COACHING: “I thought I knew football well, but I didn’t know coaching very well. But what I realized right away was that ability to connect with kids made an impact on me. And I saw that those relationships I had with players. I made a big impact on them, and they made a big impact on me. So right then, I got exposed to it, and right away I knew this is what I wanted to do. This is what I wanted to do with my life. This is where I give a lot of meaning to my life, and I just went for it.”
  • MENTOR: Steve Valach, head football coach, Liberty High School, Renton, WA. In his 19th year there. Valach’s first year as head coach, he hired Tarantola as a freshman assistant. “We were a struggling program. We really struggled. After six years there we had established a program and we were successful. But when we started, we really struggled, and what he really taught me was that wins are important and they make the experience meaningful, but there’s more to it. There’s more to it than your overall record. The real meaning is the impact you make on individual players. Those life long relationships you make for down the road. Being invited to their weddings. Being there at their high school reunions. You make that life-long impact. That experience was invaluable. As a young coach,I just wanted to win. But it was more than that.”
  •  LOVES TEXAS FOOTBALL BECAUSE: “The thing about it, what I really like is that Texas high school football compared to Washington high school football is the resources. Having athletic periods. The ability to be around your athletes during the school day. That makes a big difference for me.”

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