This was a step, West Forsyth athletic director Brett Phipps said.
To have teams or individuals in eight sports make the state playoffs was progress – football reaching 10 wins again; baseball, softball and boys soccer in the playoffs; and girls lacrosse advancing to the Class 6A quarterfinals. But it went even deeper, Phipps said. Both basketball teams and boys lacrosse had new head coaches and each improved.
"Overall, it was a step up from [2011-12]," Phipps said. "It’s an important year next year."
Indeed, there will be impactful players to replace in football, a new volleyball coach (Jake Dickey) and young baseball and boys lacrosse teams looking to take that next step.
Phipps spoke recently with Forsyth County News sports editor Brian Paglia about last season’s new head coaches and the challenge of needing multi-sport athletes.
Overall impression of the athletic year?
"We had a good year. The fall, with football and everything, went really well. Cross country had a good season. Boys and girls basketball made significant strides and wrestling had an outstanding year. Wrestling was just a couple of points short of winning region.
"Spring sports were busy. We made the playoffs in baseball, girls lacrosse and boys soccer. We actually had the best season in school history in boys lacrosse at 11-5 and just barely missed the playoffs. We had one girl qualify for the state track meet. Overall, it was a step up from a year ago. It’s important next year that we build off this past season."
What are you most proud of this past season?
"It’s not measurable in that what I’m most proud of is the way our coaches worked together, how our strength and conditioning coach incorporates the needs of all the teams and gets them through the weight room. The things that go on behind the scenes that the public never sees about sharing the field and things like that that I think at the end of the day are going to pay dividends to make all the programs becoming stronger."
What were some of the biggest challenges?
"The biggest challenge is we need to share athletes. Our coaches are very, very good about it. At the end of the day, they do a good job of accommodating.
"For example, Jake Wieczorek, who is going to Holy Cross to play football, he ran track and was on baseball team. Those kinds of things you don’t see in a lot of schools, not just in Forsyth but the whole country. Our coaches go out of their way to accommodate the needs of kids and teams. That’s probably our biggest challenge.
"You can’t win in everything, but we’re competitive. Tennis and golf had two of the better seasons in school history. Really spring sports across the board had a really good year."
What kind of impact did you see from your three new head coaches?
"I just think it’s brought an energy to those three programs, brought renewed interest. All three are doing a really nice job of getting the community and kids excited. All three programs are in the exact right direction.
"We brought in a couple of [other] new coaches this year too. We feel like we’re doing a good job of getting good people in good spots. We’re excited about this year about the changes. … Any time you can bring in new people that bring in new ideas of doing things I think it brings energy across the board sometimes."
You had to be impressed with the football team having another strong year.
"We had a really good strong class that graduated the other night. I was on the football staff a few years ago, so I know the kids in that program, I feel like things are going in the right direction. Any time you’re in Georgia and can be competitive in the largest classification you’re doing something right.
"Our coaches do a fantastic job of getting kids in the right position, preparing and being competitive. That’s something I’ve always been proud of is their ability to get kids prepared for Friday night. This year we won’t be as strong, but I’m expecting we’re still going to be competitive. I feel like we’ve got a shot to be a playoff team again."
What can we look forward to next year?
"I feel excited about all our programs, but girls basketball has really been hitting it hard. Our boys lacrosse program I feel is about to take it to the next level. It’s going to be fun to see Coach [John Laden] with a full year with us. He’s really started to get our feeder kids into the program, and he’s just really cranking that thing up.
"And then I think baseball has the potential to be really be a strong program. We had a lot of sophomores on our team and we were a playoff team. Hopefully, with them being a year older they’ll pick it up. But I don’t feel like we’ve got any down program next year.
"Across the board this senior class is going to be a tough act to follow. They brought a lot leadership and experience. That’s going to be hard to replace. But we’ll be competitive."