Teams challenged to adapt to changing coaches

Teams challenged to adapt to changing coaches

In sports, coaches impact a team’s performance almost as much as the players themselves do. While coaching requires a lot of dedication and patience, it is an incredibly rewarding job. Unfortunately, in the last couple years, several teams at Gunn have had trouble keeping one coach continuously, switching to a new coach every couple years, which affects both team culture and performance.

Having a long-standing coach is critical to a team’s success since players get accustomed to a certain coaching style. The football team, for instance, has been coached by social studies teacher Jason Miller since 2018. Offensive lineman junior Otis Murray explained how Coach Miller’s attitude positively impacts the team. “Having the same coach for a long period of time allows that coach to instill their values and expectations into the players,” he said. “This translates into us winning on the field.”

Senior Alanna Lee, co-captain of the girls golf team, expressed similar sentiments about her coach, math teacher Chris Redfield. Redfield has been coaching the girls golf team since 2011 and was recently named the 2021 Santa Clara Valley Athletic League (SCVAL) Coach of the Year. “He definitely brings a lot of integrity to the team,” she said. “It’s nice to have a coach you can rely on because during competition, you get nervous. Having a coach that you understand is comforting and makes you the best player you can be.”

While the football and girls golf teams have had luck with continuous coaches, due to COVID-19, other teams
have not. The cross country and track teams’ former head coach, for instance, left in 2020 due to the pandemic. With a new head coach, many of the returning athletes have had to adjust to the new practice structure, principles and culture. However, teams are adapting quickly according to senior Gal Rivlin, a runner on the cross country team.“We used to be much looser with the old coach, [but] the new coach has been more strict,” he said. “He wants us to [practice] in groups, so we did have to adjust, especially with how we act. I’m pretty okay with the new coach and how he coaches us, so I’d say that [the new coach] is a positive.”

Another team that has been hindered from the lack of coach continuity is the varsity girls basketball team, which lost two coaches last year. The head coach left in the middle of the 2021 season, and the assistant coach left near the beginning of the 2022 season. Because of this sudden vacancy, the team has received yet another new coach. Center junior Zara Wang explained the uncertainty and variability that the changing of coaches brings to the team. “With every coach, they put emphasis on different parts of the game and they have different plays,” she said. “For example, our current coach focuses a lot more on plays than our previous coaches.”

Despite the lack of consistency, the varsity girls basketball team has done their best to persevere through the hardships. “I think we’ve gotten closer [as a team] as the seasons have gone by,” Wang said. “[Team] cohesiveness has helped us adapt with each coaching change because we’re all going through it together.”

The cheer team has also received a new head coach and secondary coach. The change in coaching has brought changes to the team. Co-captain senior Lucia Acosta explained the change in attitude and environment. “Our [new] coach was a student at Gunn and also did cheer in college, while our old coach didn’t,” she said. “Our new coach takes it a lot more seriously and has different ideas and stunts.”

Acosta reflects on the adjustment period for the team. “You have to get used to it and get close with the coach,” she said. “This year has been pretty nice because [our coach] is young and we all get along nicely.”

Unlike the track and girls basketball teams, the new cheer coach took some extra steps before the season to streamline the shift in coaching and minimize the impact on team performance. “For the last couple of months when our old coach was here, the new coach started coming just to see her method of coaching and her philosophies,” Acosta said. “Overall, it hasn’t changed that much [except for] the difference in ages and experience.”