“Send Coach Sperling down here! I want him to do my pest control!” Robert Sperling, quoting one of his happy customers, says. According to the coach, they half-expect him to show up in a white Ford Ranger to take care of marauding ants. But Sperling, for the past two years a commercial sales representative at Clark Pest Control’s Stockton office, only handles the sales part of the transaction, even though he now is licensed by the state of California to treat for pests.
Though Sperling may not wear a service technician’s cap, he does wear a few different hats, with his most recent addition being named the head football coach at Lodi High School. Sperling has been coaching football for 16 years; it runs in his family, going back to a grandfather who played under Paul “Bear” Bryant at Alabama and later coached, and a dad who coached, and numerous relatives who also coached.
“It’s what we do,” Sperling says of his football-enthusiast family. “Years ago, I learned to coach, not for the wins and losses, but to develop kids – because I had really good coaches growing up, and they had a big influence on me and my life. My uncle taught me … a long time ago, he said, ‘If you get into it to coach just for football, just for wins and losses, then don’t. But if you’re going to do it to teach the love of the game, and what the game has to offer young men, to teach them values in life, then do it. And that’s why I do it.”
Sperling, who played football at Stockton’s Lincoln High and then at Sacramento State until he was sidelined by an injury, has coached high school ball in varying capacities over the years, at different levels – freshman, sophomore, junior varsity. He also started the Lodi Junior Flames with another coach, Ken Rhodes, as a youth football team that would act as a feeder system for Lodi High’s program.
To pay the bills so he could coach football, Sperling worked at Alpine Meats in Stockton for 18 years; he began by working in the slaughterhouse, and then drove a truck. Drivers would sell what goods were left at the end of the day, and right away, Sperling’s bosses recognized his natural ability for sales. He got promoted to a regular selling gig, which led to him landing contracts to supply hot dogs and other meats to a number of sports concessions, including the San Francisco Giants.
After Alpine Meats got sold and dismantled, Sperling moved from selling packaged meats to pest management. Because Alpine Meats and Clark Pest Control were both sponsors of the Lodi Grape Festival, Festival manager Mark Armstrong put Sperling in touch with Clark, which quickly recognized the value of having an active coach making sales.
“Especially with my job, with leads and cold calls, you’re constantly meeting new people,” Sperling says. “I love meeting new people. I’m a people person. And, I love helping them with their issues. That’s probably my favorite part.”