Fortuna Union High School
Girl's Basketball Pioneer
Coach Yvonne Rocha
Fortuna High School women's basketball begins with one name: Yvonne Rocha.
Yvonne Rocha is a high school basketball legend on the North Coast. During her teaching and coaching career at Fortuna High School, she was instrumental in transforming the girl's basketball program from an intramural sport to a full-fledged varsity program, one that became recognized by the Humboldt-Del Norte League and the North Coast Section. Yvonne was a key member and leader of women coaches who set the course for our current path of women's sports on the North Coast. Fortuna and Fortuna High School owes a tremendous debt of gratitude to Yvonne.
Coach Rocha's long and illustrious career began in 1958. While attending Sacramento city College, Yvonne met Dr. Rhoda Wentch, who took her under her wing and became her mentor. Dr. Wentch taught Yvonne how to be a teacher, how to do lesson plans, make a schedule, define goals, and work within the system to get results.
Yvonne transferred to Sacramento State, where she graduated in 1961. She then moved north to Humboldt State to do her graduate work. Again, Yvonne had mentors, Dr. Louise Watson and Professor Barbara van Putten, who are legends among women's sports in their own right.
Yvonne's first teaching position was at Crescent Elk School in Crescent City. She coached track and field, basketball and softball from 1963 to 1966. Yvonne remembers Larry Amos as another mentor coach and teacher who helped further her career.
Yvonne came to Fortuna High School in the fall of 1966 and taught here until her retirement. Evelyn Dieke was instrumental in helping Coach Rocha come to Fortuna. Evelyn was head of the P.E. department at Fortuna High School at that time. The following year, Evelyn went to Humboldt State University to teach and coach. Coach Dieke is now retired and lives in Fortuna.
While at Fortuna High School, Yvonne built a girl's basketball powerhouse. To reach that level of achievement, Yvonne was tireless in her activities. She took her players to summer basketball camps and tournaments. Since there were no local camps or tournaments in those years, she spent her summers on the road with her players. Her players gained confidence and skill during those times, as evidenced by the TEN league championship teams she coached. In 1972, Yvonne started the first girl's basketball tournament in the Humboldt-Del Norte League. In December, Fortuna High School will host the 30th Annual Yvonne Rocha Tournament. Teams in the tournament include Monte Vista, Moreau Catholic, Anderson, Piner, Mt. Eden, McKinleyville, Del Norte, and Fortuna. Yvonne's untiring efforts also brought two section championships to Fortuna, the first in 1977 and the second in 1978. Coach Rocha accomplished this remarkable feat while coaching both the varsity and JV teams and running two tournaments.
In recognition of her accomplishments, Yvonne was awarded the California Association of High School Coaches "Basketball Coach of the Year" Award. Then in June of 1979, Yvonne was awarded the National High School Coaches Association's "Girl's Basketball Coach of the Year" Award for District 8 (Western United States). Yvonne received this award in Florida at the weeklong national convention on June 22, 1979. The Fortuna High School Booster Club contributed to the cost of Yvonne's trip to Florida, where she also made a presentation to the Coaches Association convention about her program. In 1993, the Fortuna Union High School board of Trustees and community again recognized Yvonne for her outstanding efforts by officially renaming the "Huskeyette Tournament" to the "Yvonne Rocha Tournament".
Side Note: In 1975 or 1976, Coach Rocha went to see Professor Betty Partain at HSU about starting a girl's basketball camp. Professor liked the idea and "ran with it". Professor Partain was able to arrange to have the women's basketball coaches from the University of Minnesota help organize and conduct the first girl's basketball summer camp at HSU. There was a great interest in the tournament, drawing other university coaches to help out along with HSU players and area high school coaches. This girl's summer basketball camp at Humboldt still continues today, thanks to coach Rocha's idea back in 1975 to provide quality instruction to female high school athletes.