Behind the scenes: From athlete to assistant

Tony Palermini Cross-country assistant coach
Tony Palermini
Cross-country assistant coach
Zach Bradford Men’s soccer assistant coach
Zach Bradford
Men’s soccer assistant coach

Behind every well-oiled sports team, there’s a hard-working coach making all the right moves. And behind that coach, an assistant coach working just as hard.

“It’s a lot to handle,” said Zach Bradford, the assistant men’s soccer coach at Chico State. “It’s my first fall semester as the head assistant coach, so it’s new for me. There are a lot of new responsibilities.”

Bradford wasted no time getting into coaching. After playing at Chico State from 2007-10, he began the process of moving up the assistant ladder.

“I stayed here as a student assistant, graduated to assistant and now head assistant,” he said. “It’s worked out pretty well for me.”

Bradford isn’t the only coach saddled with work away from the field. Cross-country assistant coach Tony Palermini can relate to the off-field duties.

“So far, I’ve helped drive the kids to practice when we work out in Upper Park,” the first-year coach said. “I’ve helped with timing events and done some paperwork.”

A former athlete like Bradford, Palermini said coaching has always been in his mind after an extensive 10-year running career.

“I was very interested in coaching,” Palermini said. “I just graduated and figured I was going to be around, so might as well help out.”

The same kind of behind-the-scenes action goes for assistant women’s soccer coach Reanna “Ray” Gibbs, another first-year assistant at Chico State.

Gibbs had coaching in mind, even as a young high school and eventual UC Riverside soccer standout.

“When I was younger, soccer became my life, my getaway,” Gibbs said. “I realized that giving back means a lot to me. I want to help girls realize soccer can be that getaway.”

Of course, with so much on each of their respective plates, there are certain challenges to the assistant coaching position.

Palermini’s challenge is to bridge the gap from former teammate to coach and leader.

“I was on the team with a lot of the runners,” he said. “I’m their friend obviously, but I also have to step up, take responsibility and assert myself as a coach.”

All three of these coaches have moved from playing the game they love to bringing that passion into the coaching office. And all three know the challenges that accompany coaching.

But there is an upside. This level of commitment comes with a substantial payoff for the coaches.

Bradford points to being with the team as the most rewarding part of coaching.

“When you’re out there on the field, you’ve really made a connection with those guys,” Bradford says. “They trust you. You see aspects of your coaching going into the game plan.”

Watching the team improve is exciting, Bradford said.

“Seeing the kids grow is great,” he said. “I’ve been with the team three years now and I’ve seen kids progress and become young men.”

Gibbs simply loves the fact that she’s doing what she loves.

“I wake up every day and smile, knowing that I’m blessed to be doing what I love,” she said.

Bradford offers up a memorable moment of his own coaching experience, one that makes it all worthwhile.

“Early morning practices,” he said. “The entire team would much rather be sleeping, but they show up with energy and determination to get better. When they are willing to wake up that early and put in the work, that’s pretty special. It’s not something you see every day.”

 

Nicholas Woodard can be reached at n[email protected] or @nwoodard25 on Twitter.