Gail Baker wins Coach of the YearWritten by Andrea Miller
This year, Varsity Soccer Coach Gail Baker celebrated a number of milestones – the 10th Anniversary of the Friends Academy Girls Varsity Soccer team state championship, her 30th year at Friends Academy, and this fall, her 8th career Coach of the Year award. At the close of fall sports, Baker was honored as Nassau County’s Coach of the Year for her expertise and skill during the soccer season.
“The season was an amazing one,” said Coach Baker, whose team shone with a mix of veterans and younger players, including two 8th graders and one ninth-grader. “I heard from our parents that our older girls were not only extremely talented but that their daughters shared how the veteran players unified the team and made them feel like a family.”
That theme of unity was ever-present throughout the season. “The way we play is very unified. Even when you have a lot of talent and girls who can do more individually, we still need to build trust as a team,” shared Baker. “Though talent can win games, you need to form it and channel it into success.”
The Girls Varsity Soccer team finished their regular season undefeated; an outcome that was born from a team goal and expectation at the start of the season. “This was a pivotal piece of our team,” reflected Baker. “The girls wanted it as much as the coaches and that showed in how present we were at every game.”
While Baker has garnered multiple accolades as Coach of the Year for both soccer and golf, something about this year felt different to her. “The winning was exciting in combination with the goals we set, but I saw how verbal the girls were about achieving this. Something inspired them to talk more and our veterans really made the younger girls believe.”
On the sidelines, no one believed more than the Friends Academy fans who came out with posters and applause to cheer on the team. “I want to thank the community,” remarked Coach Baker, “Even when I was coaching, I looked over to the sidelines and saw what the fans did to bridge the community.” In what would be the team’s final playoff game against Long Beach, the Middle School soccer team showed up in force with homemade banners. “Our girls noticed and appreciated that,” said Baker. “It wasn’t just a soccer game, it was a community event.”
Now in her 30th year, Coach Baker still feels the same pull of emotion she did in her first year. “I haven’t ever outgrown the joy that sports can bring to a kid – or to me,” she shared as she reflected on her past three decades. “In the end, it’s not about the wins and losses, but the impact a coach can make on a student’s life.”