Nine times out of 10 in this magazine, our features and coverage will be centered on a specific player or team. Not too often does the coach get a spotlight treatment.
That being said, it doesn’t mean they aren’t some of our favorite people to deal with when it comes to putting a story together.
As the son of two coaches, it’s always been easy for me to relate to other coaches. It’s also allowed me to appreciate the jobs they do — which is important, because it’s far too common that the job these folks do goes unappreciated. More and more good high school coaches are leaving the profession because of burnout, parent pressure or the fact that the pay is just not equal to the time it takes to do the job right.
With that said, it was encouraging to spend a day with Liberty-Brentwood volleyball coach Linda Ghilarducci while putting together our cover story on the Lions. Ghilarducci has presided over the Liberty volleyball program for three decades and missed the playoffs just twice. She’s never claimed to make everybody happy, and she prides herself in being demanding and enforcing consistent discipline.
“In our first tournament of the year, I benched two of our starters,” the coach said at the practice we visited. “They were eight minutes late.”
And rather than resist, her players embrace the demands.
“Leaving here, I’ll have so much more experience that I would have if I hadn’t played for her,” said Lions senior setter Kaitlynn Zdroik, who has played for Ghilarducci all four years at Liberty. “Her goal is to teach you, instead of volleyball lessons, but life lessons. … Being in the liberty program, I feel like we have a different type of discipline than other teams. We respect the coaches and the coaches respect you back.”
During the practice we visited, she exhibited a little more softness around the edges — even openly admitting at one point, “Today, I’m a little bit laid back. I’m not normally like this.”
That discipline though has already helped make the Liberty team better. The Lions won that season-opening tournament, and the players who filled in for the starters flourished.
“That’s how you build character,” she said. “I’d rather lose and teach that, than win.”
But for the past 32 years, she hasn’t had to sacrifice much winning to still teach her lessons. The program has three North Coast Section Division I championships during her tenure, all coming in consecutive years from 2003-2005. It remains the only Div. I program to win three NCS titles in a row.
This year, her new assistant coach, Allison Cecchini, is a former player from those teams. Which is another sign that the coach is doing something right: Her players want to come back and contribute to the program. Here’s hoping you enjoy reading our story on Ghilarducci’s current team. You can find it on Page 16.
We don’t cheer in the press box here, but we do believe in tipping the cap when it’s warranted. Here’s to the coaches like Ghilarducci, who have stuck to their beliefs and endured the long haul. We wish there were even more of you out there.
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