Easygoing yet high-spirited coach aims to connect players

Sylvana Perczek

JV coach Nick Naudain directing players at a practice.
JV coach Nick Naudain directing players at a football practice.

Former Terra Linda high school football coach Nick Naudain made the decision to coach at Redwood this season, replacing Thomas Wong. Being a San Francisco native, he was aware of the great responsibility that came with the head coach position and also the different kinds of pressures that came with playing in the Bay Area. He came to Redwood ready to take risks and challenge his players.

Naudain has a long relationship with football. In his high school years he moved a lot, but became well acquainted with the sport his junior year at Galileo High School in San Francisco. As a junior in 1997, his team won their first championship game.

After high school ended, he decided to try football at a college level but had no intention of pursuing it seriously.

“After half a season, I quit football to try out different passions, one being music,”  Naudain said.

Naudain’s coaching career started three years ago at Terra Linda High School in San Rafael. There, he and the other coaches at the time transformed the entire program, he said. They started teaching the players various plays and gave them more advanced coaching. He enjoyed his three years coaching at Terra Linda but wanted a coaching position with more responsibility.

“I stopped coaching at Terra Linda because the coaching environment became difficult and I wasn’t sure that I wanted to continue under those circumstances,” Naudain said.

Earlier this year, coach Esteban Chavez from Redwood contacted Naudain about the open position. Naudain took the opportunity and left Terra Linda to come coach at Redwood, bringing three other coaches from the school with him.

Although the first few weeks of summer practice were only attended by four to five players, over 40 kids came to the first official day of practice, Naudin said. At Terra Linda, where the team had between 25 and 30 kids, it was quite different compared to Redwood, which has about 40 to 47 kids. At first this was a lot for Naudain to handle, but he adjusted.

“I’m a little nervous, but I’m the kind of person that grabs the bull by the horns and gets to work and that’s what we’re doing here at Redwood,” Naudain said.

According to Naudain, he wants the football program to be inclusive. He said he tries to make everyone feel that they are safe and free to talk to the coaches whenever they want.

“Most head coaches say it’s my way or the highway and I’m not that way. I’m a compromiser. We can talk it out. We can figure out the best course of action and it doesn’t always have to be about me,” Naudain said.

So far, the team has had two scrimmages and one preseason game. The team won the preseason game, boosting the players confidence. According to Naudain, most of the Redwood students on the team didn’t believe that they would be winners until they won their first preseason game.

“A lot of the time the guys would complain and say ‘Why are we doing this?’ but once they got on the field and started the game, and they saw what the coaches were saying was true, they started to believe,” Naudain said.

Defensive coordinator Michael Jenkins, known to players as Coach Mike, has been coaching football for the last 15 years. His coaching career began at Terra Linda where he met Naudain.

“The best aspect of coaching is working with kids and giving them the confidence and the love of football,” Jenkins said.

Jenkins said coming to Redwood from Terra Linda with Naudain was very exciting. After the first few practices, he said he knew he was at a superb school. But the moment when he realized the players were truly understanding what he was teaching was during their first preseason game, which they won 50-6.

Jenkins wants this season to be legendary.

“I tell the players that we’re trying to form the Avengers; everybody tries to form their own power,” Jenkins said.

Sophomore Jack Loebbaka has been playing football for the last five years. As a kid he would watch football with his family and goof around with the ball. Then, in the 6th grade, his parents allowed him to play and he has been committed ever since.

Loebbaka has played basketball, baseball and rugby but he has never considered himself good at any sport except football. According to Loebbaka, the coaching staff last year had many distinctive talents but getting the players pumped up wasn’t one of them.

“The coaches this year are better at connecting with us and hyping us up compared to the coaches last year that were really quiet,” Loebbaka said.

According to Loebbaka, last year the coaches didn’t do a good job at keeping the team together. They would show the plays but it would be hard to understand how to run them because the coaches weren’t able to do the plays themselves.

“This year the coaches are pretty active with the players,” Loebbaka said. “They can demonstrate the exercises that they’re doing and on top of that they’re better at connecting with the players and hyping them up. Coach Nick is mainly the hype guy, he yells and gets us all roweld up with chants and makes us want to play.”

According to Loebbaka, the coaches like when the players are goofing around because it means that they’re happy, but if fooling around negatively affects their performance on the field then it becomes a problem.

Starting his fourth year coaching, Naudain is excited for the season and what will unfold. His favorite aspect of coaching is seeing the “a-ha” moment—the moment where you can see the player’s eyes open up because they actually understand what is being taught during practice.

At the start of the season, Naudain said he asked the team how many games they thought they were going to win this year and some of the guys said four, maybe five. Only one person said they were going to go undefeated.

“In the beginning when the players were told that they were going to go undefeated, they would snicker on the side, but now they get excited and believe that they can do that and that it can be a reality,” Naudain said.