By Owen Gotimer
Ashburn (Jan. 12, 2015) – Being a first year head varsity basketball coach can be intimidating for anyone. Adding the fact the school you got your first head coaching gig at is a first-year school with a young student body makes it that much more difficult. But Rock Ridge High School girls varsity basketball coach Jaclyn Cummings is making the most of her opportunity.
After joining the Broad Run High School coaching staff in 2008, Cummings worked her way up to a varsity assistant coach role in just a few years. With just six years of high school coaching experience under her belt, Cummings was up for the challenge of opening of the Lady Phoenix program.
While the Lady Phoenix are yet to get the program’s first win, Cummings has preached long term program success to her team from the get go. Easily the youngest team in the county, Rock Ridge has showed great heart and hustle throughout the season and the icing on the cake has been highlighted athletic moments popping up during their first year.
On top her work with the basketball program at Rock Ridge, Cummings is a behavioral assistant at Steuart Weller Elementary in Ashburn.
Cummings – who graduated from Stone Bridge High School in 2006 – sat down with LoCoSports editor Owen Gotimer to give us the scoop: inside the huddle.
Owen Gotimer: You’re a first year head coach and your first assignment is to open up a brand new school. What has the experience of starting the Rock Ridge Lady Phoenix program been like?
Jaclyn Cummings: I was excited to be taking on such a challenge, knowing that opening a new school isn’t always the easiest. The experience has been extremely rewarding thus far. Rock Ridge has a great support system, from the administration, to the athletic department, to the faculty and staff, to my coaches and to the parents.
Players know we are not measuring success by the number of wins and losses we have, but by small successes throughout the season. Because the players have bought into the master plan, it has made the experience that much better.
Gotimer: Obviously a first-year program comes with challenges including age and experience. We’ve talked before about how your athletes are young, but smart and about how this program has room to grow in the future. Can you elaborate on what the future of Rock Ridge Lady Phoenix basketball looks like?
Cummings: The Lady Phoenix Basketball Program is filled with young, smart athletes who are eager to learn the game of basketball and willing to grow as athletes. The team now is the future for our success. They know what is expected of them and they will be able to pass that on to future players.
The focus is also not only on current players, but also on those who will be in the program down the road. My staff and I make a point to attend travel and house league games, and communicating with those coaches gets the players excited about playing high school basketball.
Gotimer: You coached for several years at Broad Run under head coach Sean Gundry. Has he or any other coach served as your coaching mentor?
Cummings: Although having only played at Stone Bridge and coached at Broad Run, I have had the opportunity to learn from many different coaches and see how they run their programs. The best way to succeed is to learn from other coaches.
When coach Gundry was hired two years ago, I was excited he kept me on staff. Coaching under him has been one of the best opportunities in my coaching career. Having been in my position before, with helping to start a new program when he coached in South Carolina, Sean has been able to give me helpful advice in certain situations.
My father, Jerry, has also been a mentor. Having coached my brothers and me growing up, he was able to instill in me everything that goes into playing a sport – work hard to get where you are, always be on time, learn from others and learn from your mistakes. Have you ever heard “practice makes perfect”? He would say “perfect practice makes perfect.” You can practice all you want, but if it’s not the right way you won’t get any better.
Gotimer: You’re the head coach of a varsity basketball team, but in high school, you played a couple sports. Can you tell us which of those sports was your favorite?
Cummings: I did play two sports in high school – basketball and track. I actually enjoyed playing both. Most of my teammates on the basketball team ran track as well, so we were able to become even closer, which helped us succeed on the court.
Gotimer: Without giving your athletes too much insider knowledge, do you mind sharing your most embarrassing moment in sports?
Cummings: I don’t have any – just kidding! I have many, but the one that sticks out the most was my first year playing basketball. I was in fifth grade and was so excited I was in the starting lineup. Off the tipoff, the ball came right to me. I started dribbling, but the wrong way! I ended up scoring…for the other team. Let’s just say that never happened again.
Owen Gotimer is a graduate of Heritage High School in Leesburg and is currently in his senior year at Syracuse University. Follow LoCoSports on Twitter (@LoCoSports) for up-to-date news and scores from around Loudoun County.