LAFAYETTE — Gayle Montalvo was already receiving AARP correspondence the year many of her Northside High players were born.
The 70-year-old girls basketball coach figures coaching for her must be addictive, because she hasn’t become weary of teaching the game.
After 47 years of coaching teams at all levels, even Montalvo’s current players admit they are amazed at their coach’s energy and enthusiasm.
After all that time, basketball is still producing those enjoyable moments, Montalvo said.
“People come up to me and say, ‘What’s your problem?’ ” Montalvo said Wednesday as she prepared her team for another practice.
There’s really no issue at all with staying in coaching for nearly five decades, said Montalvo, whose teams have won 1,058 games.
Montalvo figures she’s the state’s oldest girls high school basketball coach and coaching fulltime longer than anyone else in the current era.
There are also no plans to depart from the game anytime soon, she said.
Northside guard Tachiana Ledet said she and some of her teammates were surprised two years ago when they first learned of the age differential between them and their coach.
“It was like, ‘Oh, my God,” Ledet said. “We didn’t know if our coach was going to know what she was doing, but then we got to know her and we realized that (Montalvo) really knows a lot of things we don’t know.
“She has taught us a lot about life because she’s already been there. She brings such energy to the (basketball) court each day, so you don’t realize she is really that old.”
Freshman guard Brittany Smith said Montalvo has a venerable presence and other attributes that the Vikings perhaps wouldn’t see in a younger coach.
“She sometimes does things differently than maybe a younger coach,” Smith said. “The thing I notice is she coaches like she is younger than she really is.”
Montalvo said her introduction to her Northside players probably wasn’t what they had imagined.
“When I first got here, they couldn’t believe me,” Montalvo said. “I was stern, and they’ve learned. The other night I sat down some of my starters, and there was no problem. They know I’m always looking for five that are going to perform.”
In her first two seasons at Northside, the Vikings were 42-20 with a pair of regional Class 4A playoff appearances.
This year, Montalvo said the team’s goal is to advance further at the Top 28 Tournament in Lake Charles.
“The kids are always saying that we’re going to the lake (Lake Charles), and that’s what we have been working for so far,” Montalvo said.
This season Northside is (16-6, 3-2 District 5-4A).
Montalvo’s coaching career began at St. Mary’s Elementary School in Cottonport and later she won a pair of state titles at The Academy of The Sacred Heart in Grand Coteau in 1979 and 1981.
Her coaching stops since have been varied and include Opelousas Catholic, Beau Chene, Opelousas High, Acadiana Prep and Carencro.
At some of those schools, she’s coached there twice.
Although she is a couple of generations removed from her current players, Montalvo said she is aware of their nuances and differences.
“I can’t understand the anxiety attacks when they are separated from their phones,” Montalvo said. I would say the biggest thing I see now is there are so many other things that are going on in their lives.
“It’s not in their minds about the do-or-die attitude. It’s sort of go with the flow attitude. I remind them all the time that how they appear on the court is noticed by the persons sitting in the stands.
“The one thing that is different is I don’t see the emotional attachment to the game that I was seeing in the past.”
Montalvo said she knows the clock has always moved forward, and she’s astute enough to know she has to adapt to the times.
“My techniques now are different,” Montalvo said. I give them the stats from every game, and all awards at the end of the season are going to be based on that.”
Some things in her teaching repertoire, however, have stayed the same, Montalvo said.
“I tell them they have to leave everything that happens off the court,” she said. “You’ve got to take away that baggage and concentrate.”
Then occasionally Montalvo realizes the players have her back too.
“She sometimes has these (moments} when she needs to get together,” Ledet said. “We tell her that and she goes into a room and calms herself down and then she’s herself again.”