As part of a new feature, Patch will feature interviews with Westford Academy coaches on a weekly basis. Check back to learn more about the men and women on the sidelines leading the Grey Ghosts.
This week's questions were answered by Russell Coward, head coach of the girls basketball team that this week clinched the Dual County League large school division regular season title. Coward is in his fifth year as the varsity coach after two years leading the JV team.
What has been the key to the team's success this year?
Two things - we have really focused on improving on defense as individuals and as a team. Over Christmas break we usually have alumni that come back to practice with the team. Asia Ewing, who plays at Stonehill, mentioned that our defense was weak because we weren't communicating as a team. We then really focused on talking more and attacking the ball more on defense, and we have really improved since then.
What did it mean to you to clinch the DCL title?
Obviously we are very pleased. It is a validation of the hard work that the girls' have put in during the season. There are some opposing players in the DCL that have well-earned individual accolades and who are going to play at Division 1 NCAA schools next year, but this title shows how talented we are as individuals and as a team.
What's your favorite part about your job as Westford Academy head coach?
My favorite part is being a teacher and a coach at the same place. It is very rewarding to see girls enter our program as freshmen and blossom as students and athletes. This year we have started seeing kids who started in our 3rd grade clinic come into the high school, and that has been really great to see.
How would you describe yourself as a coach?
I would say I'm fairly intense. I take the sport fairly seriously, but I think I also have a decent sense of humor. I definitely try to push the kids to be the best they can be. We focus on fundamental skills in practice, then slowly work on mastering more complex skills. Bob is very level-headed and calm, and he keeps me from getting a little too fired up. Chiara Bubin and Judy Victory (JV and Freshmen coaches) do great work preparing kids for varsity, and it is our job to fine-tune their skills.
What are your expectations the rest of the season?
Well, we have a modest 6 game win streak going. We lost to Billerica in the middle of January and haven't lost since, and we have some tough games left on the schedule. We are hoping to earn a top-6 seed in the state tournament. We lost in the second round of the tournament last year, and hope to either match that or improve on that this year. I expect that we will play very, very hard and be competive in every remaining game.