Nelson Gifford, the Paly football coach instructs players at practice. Gifford has led the team to a 9-1 season, seeding third place in CCS play offs. The Vikings play Los Gatos on Nov. 6, Friday at home at 7 p.m.
Athletics department continues rigorous coach hiring process
With a rich history of titles from a wide range of competitions, Paly sports teams have maintained a high level of prestige in the local athletic community. While powerhouse players have immense importance in a team’s success, a team’s coach is one of the most important factors to consistently win. Paly’s numerous outstanding coaches begs the question: how do we find our coaches, and what is the hiring process?
According to Paly Athletic Director Therren Wilburn, the first destination for coaches that are determined to take on the responsibility of leading out a Paly season is EdJoin.org. The website is a resource for educational institutions to post job openings. Prospective coaches apply via the website as their first step to becoming the mastermind of a Paly team.
According to Wilburn, in terms of selectivity, Paly is determined to find the perfect person for the job. While there are certain criteria through which coaches are evaluated, Paly also takes into consideration personal goals, aspirations and values when determining whether a coach is a good fit.
“Each job posting has minimum job requirements. After candidates apply we review their application and see if their experience is a fit with our department philosophy and our expectations. Our first necessity is the coach to be a role model for the Palo Alto High School student athletes.”
In addition to the characteristics that make an effective leader and victory-enabler, the school also makes sure to seek out coaches that are trained properly in how to tend to severe head and heart injuries.
Senior and three-sport athlete Paul Thie has had extensive experiences with a wide variety of Paly coaches.
Throughout the seasons on athletics teams at Paly, coaches have become influential figures in his life.
“It’s not just about the sports,” Thie said. “The coaches care about players’ academics too. I don’t just mean keeping students eligible to play, but actually pushing kids to reach their full potential academically, because at the end of they day, good coaches recognize that education is the most important thing in school, and Paly has those coaches.”
According to Wilburn, despite a California Interscholastic Federation mandate for coaches to be certified in fundamentals of coaching, concussion management and Sudden Cardiac Arrest, Paly prefers to hire those who seem more devoted to their work than just meeting the requirements.
“Candidates who are consistently developing and attending professional development conferences are always ideal, as they have shown an intrinsic motivation to improving their craft,” Wilburn said.
According to Wilburn, each time a new coach is hired, they are interviewed by a panel consisting of athletic department staff, a school administrator, an outside panelist who has experience in the sport and a current Paly student-athlete.
“I think the Paly hiring process is good because of all of the steps that are taken before any coach is hired,”Thie said. “They go through an immense questioning process which narrows down the candidates that truly care about the student athletes and their safety.”
Like Thie, sophomore varsity soccer player Chris Chen sees the Paly hiring process as an effective method of finding the right people for the right job.
His coach, Don Briggs, has had an excellent run of seasons in his time with Paly soccer, earning multiple titles, including the Santa Clara Valley Athletic League titles and Central Coast Section playoff title.
“Although Briggs is more well regarded for his reputation as an athlete, being in the [University of California, Davis] Hall of Fame, Paly was spot on with their choice of him as the varsity soccer coach. Briggs devotes many hours of his time every day during the soccer season to fulfill his love for the game and love for the journey. He is one of the most knowledgeable and passionate coaches I have had, and I am lucky to hopefully have him as a coach for the next few seasons.”
Sophomore Christopher Chen
Throughout the years, Paly’s athletic dominance has been repeatedly proven. And while we can credit star athletes, the coaches are clearly chosen with great specificity by the athletic staff. Ultimately, the hiring process has shown to be successful in the eyes of student-athletes.
Thie said, “Through my three sports, I have always had a Paly coach that has cared for me not only as an athlete, but as a friend and as a role model, which is the key to good coaching.”