Thomas Jefferson welcomed three new head coaches for their spring and upcoming fall sports seasons in girls softball, girls volleyball, and football.
This spring, Zach Barner had his first swing at head coach with the Raider’s softball team, following three years as assistant coach.
As a Thomas Jefferson alum himself, Barner’s lifelong baseball background has become a second favorite to fastpitch, he said.
“I’m taking over a very turnkey program,” he said, adding thanks to the three previous head coaches for their work and dedication to the program over the last 15 years.
His competitive, yet relaxed coaching style allows his athletes to have fun, grow as players, and learn all at the same time.
“As a first year head coach, I want to continue the values and traditions TJ fastpitch already has,” he said. “I’d never want to change that vision.”
This season, Thomas Jefferson’s young team made huge strides in progress with field skills and batting this season, Barner said. The Raiders hold a league record of 3-9 and overall record of 5-9.
Barner did not plan to come in with the idea of rewriting the book, instead focusing on crafting a competitive team, reiterating skills to become muscle memory, and helping athletes improve on their pre-existing strengths in the game.
Amanda Gilmore, a transplant from Boise, Idaho, plans to bring her passion for the game to the volleyball court next season.
Beginning her coaching career in high school, Gilmore has coached at the middle school, high school, and club levels while also competing herself in high school and college.
“I chose to get into coaching because I wanted to share my passion for volleyball with others,” Gilmore said. “Volleyball is such a dynamic sport. Players not only have to be fundamentally sound, but also be strong mentally.”
The growth in players, both personally and athletically, that Gilmore has seen throughout her 10-year coaching career is worth all the long hours, she said.
The Raider volleyball team is dynamic because of the players who work hard day-in and day-out to improve themselves on the court and in the classroom, she said.
“We have a few players who really get the game and can perform at a high level, which forces other players to lift up their own performances.”
Gilmore sets high expectations for her team, and although her coaching style is intense, she said she commits to building personal, supportive relationships with her players.
This fall, the Raiders are planning to focus on game analysis and mental toughness, she said. By implementing “Raider Time” after school each day before practice, Gilmore and her athletes will watch film and strategize about how each individual can improve their mindsets for competition.
Gilmore also teaches social studies at Thomas Jefferson, which has given her the opportunity to connect and mentor the kids in a different aspect. This upcoming season’s seniors is the first group Gilmore has coached all four years, this being her first as head coach.
“This is a very special group to me and I have been very fortunate to watch these players grow into strong young women who will be a force to be reckoned with,” she said, adding that the Raider’s volleyball team is striving to be undefeated next season.
Head football coach Brian West is ready to take his Raiders to battle under the stadium lights this fall.
Hailing from Decatur, Georgia, West has been coaching football for 17 years.
West played wide receiver in college and spent a year in the NFL on the Jacksonville Jaguars practice squad. He previously coached college football at Edward Waters College and Morris Brown College.
Inspired by his uncle and his father, West said he’s living his father’s dream of being a football coach. “My father always wanted to be a football coach but his work schedule didn’t allow him to be a coach,” West said. “So I love the fact that I’m living my father’s dream. He’s extremely proud of me.”
West plans to cultivate the character of Thomas Jefferson’s senior-led football team both on and off the field with his personal approach.
“I feel as a coach the performance, execution, character, and motivation of my team is my responsibility,” he said. “The quality of these defined areas is a reflection of who I am, what I teach, and what I believe.”
Being a coach with this defined style, West continually looks for ways to improve my program to become the best in the state.
This improvement is shown through feedback from his players in their performance on the field, their execution of the skills taught, their display of character on the field and in the classroom, and their enthusiasm toward their responsibilities on and off the field, he said.
“Thomas Jefferson football program will takes great pride in knowing that we are developing young men into better sons, better brothers, better husbands, and better fathers.”