FOOTBALL: Gilford guiding Gavilan football in right direction


First-year head coach evoking a change in culture with Rams
Three simple sentences have become the backbone of head coach Spencer Gilford’s efforts to resuscitate and rejuvenate the football program at Gavilan College.

“I have a saying that the guys all know about,” Gilford said in a phone interview Thursday. “There’s no such thing as staying the same. You are either working hard to get better or you are allowing yourself to get worse. So we’re going to work hard every day so we can be better the next day.”

Hired in February to take over a program that has amassed just 35 wins in the past 10 years, Gilford hit the grindstone from Day 1, implementing a change in culture in a program seemingly shunned by a once-loyal fan base. His message has resonated with his players and, so far, the feedback Gilford said he has received from the outside is a promising start to the turnaround. And with the start of the 2011 season less than one month away, every step forward becomes that much more important.

“More and more, week-to-week, I’ve felt, within the community, that there is more interest and excitement. There’s a new sense of change in the air, so to speak,” he said.

“Doing our fundraisers, talking to the alumni as well as people in the community, they have interest in seeing us do well and represent them the right way. I felt that and continue to feel that. I think it’s really positive right now and we want to keep it that way.”

Among the hurdles facing Gilford at the onset of his hiring was a daunting commute from the Concord area to Gilroy. As he vowed he would when he first accepted the position, Gilford made a location change, moving to town in June and landing a teaching position at San Andreas High School in Hollister.

The transplant cut a one-way daily commute – home to the football facilities – from an hour and a half to a brisk seven minutes.

“I’m able to be around them outside of practice a little more and they are able to come into my office, sit down and talk about football or about what’s going on in their lives and really start that mentoring process more so than before,” Gilford said, adding that moving to Gilroy “absolutely” relieved some of the extra weight off of his shoulders. “We weren’t able to do that much in the spring, but since the summer we have made a lot of progress in that regard.”

Summer workouts took on new meaning under Gilford, who along with familiarizing the players with his system, also seized the opportunity to continue to develop a winning environment.

“The summer agenda was basically to reinforce the change in the culture and the practices – what we do and how we do it and reinforcing that work ethic,” Gilford said. “My success that I’ve had is because I’ve worked hard. Nothing has ever come easy. I have had to work hard to get what I want. What we have been able to accomplish in the summer is changing the mindset and pressing that upon the players, that they must work hard to achieve their goals.”

Gilford ended the conversation with another statement, which although short, sums up the situation.

“We are progressing,” he said.

Fall practice begins Thursday. The Rams will hold a scrimmage, which is open to the public, on Aug. 25 at 5 p.m. at Garcia-Elder Sports Complex. The roster won’t be finalized until a week or so before the Rams host De Anza on Sept. 10.

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