Being a part of a successful program has its own rewards. But being in charge of a program is a whole different challenge that newly-hired girls coordinator Rachel Tucker is ready to take on.
Tucker joined the Gonzales Apaches athletic program last season in hopes to someday become head coach again. After helping out on the girls’ side in Gonzales, Tucker will be making her return to Waelder as head coach for volleyball and girls basketball.
“I don’t mind being a follower, but I tend more to be a leader, you can see where you’re going when you’re in the lead,” she said. “I was interested in this job in particular because I was here in 06 and 07, I was head volleyball and basketball coach before.”
There’s been a lot of changes the past few months in Gonzales — new athletic director, new girls coordinator, new coaching staff — so Tucker found an opportunity in Waelder.
“I knew that this was a good way to make a new start and get back into being the head coach,” she explained. “It just seems like a good fit.”
The transition from being a coach in Class 4A athletic program to a Class 1A program isn’t going to be too difficult for Tucker, who seems to prefer the more intimate setting.
“We’re in a unique situation of being in a small atmosphere because we get to see these kids all the time,” she said. “The rapport that you build is better, I think, than in a bigger school. I’ll use Gonzales as an example. For basketball, I saw a lot of those kids just in basketball and then some of them ran track. Those relationships got stronger as the year went along, but you didn’t get the same with all the kids because you didn’t see them all the time.”
Tucker believes the buy-in would be better, explaining that she and newly hired athletic director David Graves are in a situation where they’ll be around their athletes from August to May, instead of few months out the year depending on the sport.
“I think if you just stay true and right by the kids, you’ll get that buy in that you need to be successful from August to May,” she said.
Tucker coached in Waelder over a decade ago. Other than the facilities, the biggest difference she sees so far is the leadership.
“I think that’s going to be huge for me in a sense that I’ve already built a pretty good relationship with the leadership here and I think that’s going to fuel us into the future,” she said. “You look good, you feel good. I think the facelift that’s Waelder’s given themselves is huge.”
Looking at past seasons, the Lady Wildcats have been stagnant in volleyball, making it to the postseason but not winning a playoff game. In basketball, the girls have had their struggles being outmatched year after year by teams such as perennial district champions Moulton.
“I think every coach’s dream or goal is to win the state championship, for sure,” Tucker said, “but at the same time, you have to be realistic, and I doubt very seriously we’ll come in and win state our first year. But that is going to be the goal. Baby steps, we’re not going to make them so lofty that I don’t think we can reach them but I don’t want to set our sights too low because then that would be the anticipation.”
Tucker wants to be “one step further than we’ve been, and then we’re go from there.”
Despite being in Gonzales for just one year, Tucker will bring to Waelder the extensive knowledge she gained coaching under Cully Doyle, the Apaches girls’ coordinator and head cross-country and track and field coach.
“Track over [in Gonzales] was huge and I’m looking forward to implementing some of those things here,” Tucker said about the potential for an improved track and field program in Waelder. “Hopefully we can grow the program.”