High coaching turnover affects athletes

by Eden Levitt-Horne, Sports Contributor
graphic by Emily Cheng

In the past school year, South’s athletic teams have seen high turnover in coaches, with nine resigning employees, nine new hires and four currently open positions, according to South’s athletic department. 

As the 2023 spring season kicks off, two teams will play under new coaches, and athletes adjust to shifts in the athletic program while looking forward to the promise of future stability in South sports.

This year, the girls lacrosse team saw the introduction of coach Taya Latham, who is set to take over the varsity program following former head coach Molly Estrada’s move to another state. Senior Tali Schwartz said that in the past three years, the team has had to adapt to constant transition, with a different coach leading the team each season.

“It would definitely help us a lot if we had a coach that was here the whole time,” she said.

Her teammate, senior Jackie Holt, said that having a new coach last year posed some difficulties for the organization of the team.

“Last year, we felt like we were a little bit mixed up because we had a ton of new players, and Ms. Estrada didn’t know us for a year before,” Holt said. “She wasn’t really able to organize us the way we had been playing together before, so that was a little bit challenging.”

As the upcoming season approaches, Holt said she is optimistic about the possibility of a longer-term coach for girls lacrosse at South. 

“Having a consistent coach for all four years is nice for anything at South. Having someone that you’re familiar with makes it easier because you can build a relationship over the four years,” she said.

Following long-time girls tennis coach Bob Jampol’s retirement, previous assistant coach Noura Guermazi is taking over as the new head coach. Junior Zoe Hong said that while girls tennis will look different this season, athletes are receptive to the new coaching style. 

“I think it’s going to be a really fun team environment. And I think [Guermazi] is going to bring a lot more to the team, which I’m really excited about,” she said.

Meanwhile, in the athletics department, the athletic trainer’s position remains unfilled following the departure of Danny Wang last December. Athletics Director Patricia Gonzalez said that filling the position is an objective for this upcoming spring season. 

“For the first time in a long time, we’re having a period of instability with the athletic trainer,” she said. “We have advertisements out, and we’re looking for people.”

Without a full-time athletic trainer, the position is currently filled by multiple substitutes, leaving injured athletes like sophomore and track team member Aoba Fujita without a regular to figure monitor their recovery. 

“When we don’t have a set trainer, you really don’t understand what’s going on with your body because everybody says different things,” she said.

The girls indoor track team is among the three teams that took on new assistant coaches. James Vance, ‘07 graduate and new chemistry teacher, joined the running program this fall as an assistant girls cross country coach and returned in the winter, as an indoor track coach.

“Our team is big, so it just makes sense,” Fujita said. “If we only had the head coach, we would be in a lot of trouble because it’s hard to do anything on our own.”

To fill openings, Gonzalez said that she keeps several criteria in mind as she searches for new coaches.

 “A coach is really a teacher first. We look for coaches who can lead their teams while also guiding athletes through each step of the process, and we look for JV coaches who we can develop into varsity coaches. We’re always looking for people who we can identify as someone who will move up in the program,” she said.

Natsumi Fujita, a sophomore on the girls indoor track team, said that supportive coaching can help determine the success of the team. 

 “For both assistant and main coaches, the coaches who look after every single player on the team and listen to what we say are good coaches,” she said.

Equally important in unifying teams is a coach who creates an environment that uplifts athletes, Holt said.

 “My favorite coach that we’ve had so far was Brittany Woodrow. I like that she was just very enthusiastic and excited to come to practice every single day,” she said.

Despite the changes in the program, Holt said she looks forward to the upcoming season.

 “I’ve liked the coaches that we’ve had so far, and even though I’d rather have a coach I’ve known for years, I’m still excited for this year,” she said.

As the athletic department looks to fill positions, Gonzalez said she remains optimistic.

“Success is a measure of the program’s impact on students,” she said. “Newton South is lucky to have such dedicated and committed coaches.”