HERMON, Maine — Amanda Gifford said coaching is “in my blood.”
Her mother, Candy, is the girls basketball coach at Lee Academy and her father, Randy, assists her mother.
“I’ve always been passionate about coaching later on in life after my [playing] career was over,” said the 23-year-old Gifford, who is joining the coaching ranks after being named the new girls basketball coach at Hermon High School earlier this month.
She is replacing Phil Robinson, who led the Hermon girls to a 19-17 regular season record in his two seasons. Robinson resigned after leading a young Hermon team to a 9-9 mark this past year before the 10th-seeded Hawks lost to No. 7 Camden Hills 68-53 in an Eastern Maine Class B prelim.
Hermon did not have a senior. The Hawks had five juniors, six sophomores and two freshmen.
Gifford played four sports at Lee Academy and helped lead the Pandas to three state basketball championships and two soccer titles.
She spent one season at Lewiston’s Bates College, where she played soccer and basketball, before transferring to Bangor’s Husson University, where she played soccer, basketball and softball.
She graduated magna cum laude from Husson with a degree in English. She was the salutatorian at Lee Academy.
She was a volunteer assistant coach with the Husson women’s soccer team last fall and currently works in the university’s development office. She is also working toward master’s degrees in business and human relations/counseling at Husson.
“I’m obviously very excited,” said the 23-year-old Gifford. “This is my first experience coaching my own team and I’m very thrilled.”
She has been coaching the Hermon girls in three summer leagues and said, “We’ve had a great summer so far. The girls have shown a lot of commitment and dedication.
“Coach Robinson did a good job laying the foundation last year and we have great feeder programs. That has paved the way and made it nice for me,” said Gifford.
Gifford said she will pattern her teams after her style of play, although she noted that “it’s important to understand your personnel.
“The great thing about coaching is you don’t have to hide your personality. I’ve always been an up-tempo, in-your-face, tenacious type of player and I have a great group of girls ready to take on that mentality,” Gifford said.
Recently retired Hermon athletic director Paul Soucy was the chairman of the selection committee, which whittled down the applicant pool from 13 to two finalists.
“She’s an impressive young lady,” said Soucy. “She obviously comes from a great athletic background. She comes from a family of coaches and educators and she has won all kinds of awards.
“She will bring some energy and enthusiasm to the program. She is a classic case of someone who has worked real hard, loves athletics and wants to give back to it. At the same time, she has shown her ability to balance academics [with her athletics]. To balance three sports and still manage a high degree of academic excellence will make her an excellent role model,” said Soucy.
Megan McCrum will return as the junior varsity coach and Gifford said she also intends to have her father work with them when his schedule permits.
Gifford said she sees her age as an advantage.
“I should be able to relate well with the girls. I’m not that far away from [my playing days] so they can look to me for guidance. Hopefully, I’ll be able to build some credibility,” said Gifford, who felt her stint as the volunteer assistant for the women’s soccer team at Husson was a “great experience.
“I had to mature quickly and be a role model and a leader,” said Gifford.