This season was my first year at California State University Bakersfield and my first year as a Head Coach at a Division I program. When I first took the job, I knew I would have to make a lot of changes within the system and especially the culture of the program, what I didn’t know was how long it would take.

I came in late in the recruiting process so I didn’t get to recruit many kids. I also didn’t want to take players just for numbers. I wanted to have the right kids to build the program so, I got two of my former athletes from Western Nebraska to come play for me. They already understood the system and how I like to do things so it was a good fit.

Most of the returners had never played in the system so I knew we (coaching staff) had to be extremely patient with them… that’s coming from a very feisty Brazilian who struggles with patience J. There was a little bit of resistance at first especially because we had 5 seniors. Those girls were used to a certain way of playing for many years and I came in with my staff and start changing everything. However, once they understood why we were doing it and how much it was helping them become better players, they bought into it.

We had 11 players this season and everyday except Fridays we had to practice with 10 because class scheduling conflicts. It was very difficult to find time where we could practice with the entire team. That didn’t stop us from working hard. The GMS methods came in handy. We played a LOT of small group games, which I believe was the biggest reason why we had such good ball control. We were also a short team with our tallest player being 6’0 so we knew we had to make up for it with our ball control and PS: my libero played middle-middle J

We struggled throughout the entire season and as a coaching staff, we were battling to get better. We had a losing record for the majority of the season so we didn’t think we were going to be very successful. Our team was very inconsistent but we knew we had players who worked really hard and wanted to get better. That was the key for us this year. We had weekly meetings with our leaders, multiple team meetings, individual meetings, and at the end of our season things started clicking and we became a team.

We made it to the conference tournament in 3rd place and went on to win it all, playing our best game when it mattered the most. With our automatic bid to the NCAA tournament, we played the number 1 team in the nation, Stanford at their house. I was very proud of our team and how well they competed. They worked really hard and made big changes. I can say my first year as a Division I coach was a roller coaster ride but totally worth it.

I want to thank everybody involved with Gold Medal Squared. I have been doing camps and attending clinics for many years and every single time I learn something new. I have created a bond with the group and they have made me a better coach. Thank you for your help and support throughout my coaching career. I can’t wait for many more.

Giovanna Melo