Most people can look back at their formal education and identify at least one teacher who made an impact on their lives. For Linda Ghilarducci, it was Dixie Ubrick, a seventh-grade physical education teacher at Oakley School. Ubrick not only instilled in Ghilarducci a sense of self-worth; she unknowingly helped determine her young pupil's future.
Mrs. Ubrick told me that I had the potential to be a really good athlete, said Ghilarducci. She said, You're gifted.' She was one of those teachers that was strict but fun. A lot of kids would go into her classroom at lunch just to talk to her. And I wanted to be just like her.
From that moment, Ghilarducci, who has always been known simply as Gooch, knew she wanted to be a teacher and a coach, to someday influence the lives of young people just as Ubrick had influenced hers.
After graduating from Liberty High School (she refuses to reveal the exact year), Ghilarducci attended Diablo Valley College and ultimately Chico State University, where she received her teaching degree.
Now in her 26th season as head coach of Liberty's varsity girls volleyball team, Ghilarducci, also a physical education teacher at the school, is following in Ubrick's footsteps.
Recently, Ghilarducci was recognized by the California Interscholastic Federation for exemplifying what it means to be a positive role model. She was one 13 coaches statewide to earn the 2007-08 CIF Model Coach Award for demonstrating and teaching six core ethical values: trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring and good citizenship.
This is the highest and most prestigious award the CIF bestows upon its coaches, said CIF Executive Director Marie M. Ishida. We are honored to be able to recognize coaches throughout our state who are dedicated to impacting the lives of high school student-athletes by not only teaching them the values of Pursuing Victory with Honor and the Six Pillars of Character, but also that there is more to participating in sports than just winning and losing.
Ghilarducci and the other model coaches will be honored at the State Volleyball Championships Dec. 6 at the Bren Events Center on the campus of UC Irvine before the start of the contests.
I think it's an honor for Liberty, big time, Ghilarducci said. It's cool for this school and a town like Brentwood to be recognized statewide. It's more about Liberty than about me. But I do try and lead by example. I don't do anything I don't want my players to do.
Also named the Bay Valley Athletic League's Coach of the Year in 2004 and the North Coast Section's Coach of the Year in 2007, Ghilarducci was inducted into the Liberty Union High School Hall of Fame in 1994. She is the only volleyball coach to lead a team to three consecutive NCS titles.
Her Liberty Lady Lions have made the post-season playoffs in 22 of her 26 years as a coach.
But, Ghilarducci insists, besides her 2006 team, which went an unprecedented 14-0 in league play, she doesn't keep track of wins and losses.
I only remember my 2006 team's record because they were undefeated and it's easy to remember 14-0, but I don't really focus on that, Ghilarducci said. Winning is great. I prefer to win, but it's those core values that I really want the kids to learn during our season. That's what they take with them when they leave Liberty not the wins and losses.
Ghilarducci's players are held to a higher standard than many high school volleyball players.
Her policy of if you're on time, you're late, requires players to arrive at practice and other team events at least 15 minutes early. They must also abstain from unhealthy food and drink, such as fast food and sodas. The consequences of breaking these rules include forfeiting the next match. Athletes receiving grades below a C are required to sit out during practice to work on homework and must report to their teachers before school and at lunch to raise their marks.
I'm not trying to just make up rules and be a stickler, but I feel like it's important to teach these girls lessons like good nutrition, being on time and getting good grades, Ghilarducci said.
Much like her mentor, Dixie Ubrick, Ghilarducci continues to strive to have a positive influence on her players and students. But what she didn't expect was to be so positively influenced by them as well.
My favorite part of coaching is the sense of family I have with the kids, Ghilarducci said. I feel like I get 12 new daughters every year and when my players leave the program, they're all considered my friends. It's the best job anyone could ever have.