Yvette Girouard and Skip Bertman speculated that some coaches stayed away from the Louisiana Legends Q&A for a very basic reason: Neither former LSU coach was there to offer advice on how to hit a baseball or a softball.
There were certainly no curveballs or riseballs to contend with. But the 90-minute session that highlighted Wednesday's final day of the Louisiana High School Coaches Association convention provided insight that went beyond X's and O's.
“When you go into the (LSU) track facility, you see all of those (national championship) banners,” LSU gymnastics coach D-D Breaux said while seated next to Tigers track and field coach Dennis Shaver. “So the expectation is always there. The lack of expectation is deadly.”
Former Louisiana School for the Deaf football coach Susan Gremillion and LSU-Alexandria men’s basketball coach Larry Cordaro also were part of the roundtable discussion at the Crowne Plaza that was moderated by WAFB’s Steve Schneider.
Each of the panelists made statements. The group also fielded questions from the audience. Breaux and Girouard praised Bertman for his work and support as a coach and then as LSU’s athletic director. All three spoke about building programs from scratch.
“When I came to LSU, there were two sports: football and spring football,” Bertman quipped. “So I went out and talked to people. We had a ticket package: $35 for two adults and two children for all 30 games. And a lot of people came. That’s how it builds up. … You go one person at a time. I think that’s underrated.”
Breaux and Girouard told stories of limited resources and hard work. Breaux’s teams had a corner of the fieldhouse and a public bathroom, a far cry from the state-of-the-art training facility her team has now. Girouard helped design LSU’s Tiger Park but, in her first year at Louisiana-Lafayette, the Ragin' Cajuns played at several public parks.
“It is about the people, and it is about not being too big to do any task,” said Gremillion, who won a deaf national championship last fall. “You have to be the kind of person you want your assistant coaches and your athletes to be, right down to the manager. I would stay after practice and do it, because I didn’t think it was fair to ask an assistant coach to stay there. I did it for an entire season.”
Breaux recalled that the late Carl Maddox once referred to sponsorships as being the “beginning of the end,” because the program was accepting money from outside sources. “Only it wasn’t,” she said.
When asked what to do when approached by supporters seeking input on playing time, Girouard said the key is to be decisive.
“My prayers go out to the high school coaches,” she said. “I know it is a whole different world now. You have to be adamant that, 'This is my program, and this is the way I run it.' We’ll talk about a player's academics and their health, but not the starting lineup.”
Shaver also spoke about work ethic but reminded coaches to take time for their own children: “Carve out some time every single day. This comes from someone who probably didn’t do that as well as he could.”