Gina Lucido, Richmond’s field hockey coach, is more concerned about her players’ hearts and personal growth than she is about her team’s win-loss record – but that does not keep her from winning.
Lucido earned her 100th career win as a coach during the opening weekend against Drexel University this fall. It is her ninth season coaching at Richmond, and her 21st season overall.
“It took a while for it to dawn on me that it was a special accomplishment,” Lucido said. “Coaching is so much bigger than the field for me. It was, however, a great moment to reflect on everyone who had gotten me to that 100th win.”
Lucido credited much of her milestone to the loyal assistants and talented girls who have played throughout the years, especially the ones who were on the team when she inherited the program in 2007 after coaching at Bucknell University.
Before Lucido arrived, the field hockey program had not lost a conference game in five years. She inherited a dynasty and although her dream was to maintain the established history of national excellence, she knew she would be taking the team in a new direction.
“It’s hard for every coach in transition because there are new players, new expectations and a new culture,” Lucido said. “And with a program with a lot of proven success such as this one, a lot of people don’t like change.”
Regardless, Lucido said that getting to this point was a special and unique journey because of the people who believed in her and followed her leadership.
Encouragement and accountability are both principles that Lucido pushes her team to follow. She said that she believed God gave people unique gifts, and that there was a reason that no two people are the same. She works to reaffirm the positive qualities each of her players have, but also refuses to coddle or make excuses for them.
“A lot of people know how to be successful without going through the hard work of maturing as a person,” she said. “Life's not fair and it’s hard, but you’re going to grow up and become a woman if you’re part of my program.”
Even though Lucido has high expectations of her players, she said that she walked shoulder-to-shoulder with them in reaching their goals – a term she has used often this year.
“It is so obvious when she coaches that she has a passion for success, and so much pride in the program and players,” senior Allison Haas said. “She goes full-heartedly into every situation and strives for greatness in all aspects of her life.”
Lucido’s coaching tactics have led the Spiders to three A-10 Conference Championships during her time in 2009, 2011 and 2014.
Haas said that it was great to hold the trophy up with Lucido and her teammates after the final whistle blew last fall to solidify their championship. She said the pride was visible on Lucido’s face.
“The success we’ve been able to have is really rewarding because it’s been done and built on a foundation of teamwork and relationships, not simply training the girls for outcomes,” Lucido said. “It’s been so much deeper than the trophies, there’s such a fullness in them.”
Lucido has had great success, but coaching has not been all bread-and-butter for her.
“This profession is hard to be in," Lucido said. "You’re always dealing with the pressures and expectations of good performance, but you’re also dealing with players and parents. A lot of times, athletics can be a lonely profession because the way people feel about you ebb and flow all the time. You just can’t be a slave to those things, you can’t be defined by what people think of you.”
Lucido said that the reason she has been able to coach for so long without burning out was that it provides a great platform to encourage, inspire and equip young women as they make the transition into the workplace and become mothers and leaders.
This year, Lucido hopes to accomplish something she has not yet been able to do: bring home the trophy again in 2015 and win back-to-back A-10 Conference Championships.
The field hockey team’s biggest obstacle this year will be their size, as they are a smaller squad than in previous years. Because of that, there is a smaller margin for typical things that happen during a season such as injuries, illness and fatigue, because there are fewer players to fall back on.
“It’s a really valuable tension that we’re living in,” Lucido said. “Even though this year may seem more demanding than others since everyone is operating one step ahead, including myself, the growth we’re experiencing is going to be unmatched.”
Richmond has hit hard times with regard to the number of players on the team. Some have left to return home overseas, some have left to focus on their studies, some have transferred to other schools and some have left the team for other reasons. On top of that, players are always graduating.
“The great thing is that it’s all been amiable and the relationships are good, but when you lose four players in a short amount of time it’s hard to make up those numbers,” Lucido said. “The academic standards at Richmond are really high and getting higher, so it’s tough to balance everything out in the following year.”
Regardless of those struggles, Lucido said she truly believed that the smallest could be the mightiest, and that she hoped this season would prove her right.
Lucido does understand though, that working to recruit and rebuild the team for future seasons is crucial.
“We have a good-sized class coming in next fall that will help balance everything again,” Lucido said. “Something that is really special about our program is that we only deal with recruits if we’re in their top two. We are not a default option for people.”
Lucido sees herself coaching for a while, but knows that she will embark on a new journey eventually.
“My faith is really important to me, and I’ve always felt that when God tugs at my heart, that’s when I’ll put my journey in a new direction,” she said. “I know that at some point I’ll be making a transition, but there’s not another specific program I want to go to. At some point I’m sure I’ll just leave athletics altogether.”
Uncertain about when that time will be, Lucido is still confident that the culture of family and the principles that have been built will remain and continue to bring life to Richmond’s field hockey program.
“A team of distinction was inducted into Richmond’s hall of fame last year,” she said. “They were before my time, but I always appreciate the rich history and excellence that has been here for years before me and hopefully for years after I leave.”
Before she leaves for her next mission though, Lucido has business to tend to.
“I’ve always dreamed of winning a national championship at Richmond,” Lucido said. “And until my last whistle blows on the field, that’s going to be something I’m pursuing here.”
Contact sports assistant Jennie Trejo at firstname.lastname@example.org.