Jenna Galster would have preferred better results in her first year as head coach of the Holliston boys’ basketball team.
The Panthers, who finished with a 3-17 record, struggled in some lop-sided games and played courageously in some close losses. One attribute that was prevalent in every outing, however, was all-out effort. Galster’s players never took a night off.
“My transition from jayvee coach to head varsity coach was easy,’’ said Galster. “I was accepted immediately by parents, players and coaches. All I’ve ever known since I coached the freshmen boys and the jayvees is acceptance.’’
When Galster became Holliston’s varsity coach, she immediately became a big part of basketball history in the Tri Valley League.
The 29-year-old math teacher, who’s in her seventh year on the Holliston faculty, is the first woman to ever coach a boys' varsity team in the TVL, which has been around as a formal conference for 48 years. Galster was appointed last May to replace Dan Santos, who resigned to spend more time with his family.
“I don’t think my hiring was about breaking down barriers,’’ Galster emphasized. “I believe I was hired because I’m passionate about coaching basketball, I’m determined to see our players improve.’’
Holliston Athletic Director Craig Najarian, who recommended Galster’s promotion to head coach, said: “I think it's going to take some time to build and establish the kind of culture Jenna is envisioning. Her expectations, every season, are always going to be high — as they should be — but her approach is not based on quick fixes. She's focused on coaching and teaching her kids every day to gradually build a foundation that will sustain long term.’’
Rival TVL coaches quickly accepted Galster and often offer suggestions and support.
“They’ve all been fantastic,’’ she said. “They’re happy to share ideas and collaborate on various topics. It’s a wonderful group made up of quality coaches and good people.’’
Galster shared a conversation she had with T.J. Chiappone, who’s been Bellingham’s head coach for three years.
“T.J. told me how he had only one victory his first year, then two the next season,’’ she noted. “He finished this year with nine wins and just missed qualifying for tourney play. It was gratifying to hear his story and how he dealt with getting his program on track. His experience gives me hope.’’
Ironically, it was Galster’s Panthers who defeated Chiappone’s squad in Holliston’s final game, denying the Blackhawks a berth in the playoffs. “T.J.’s team can be proud of what they achieved this year. As for our kids, I’m so proud of how they finished and glad they showed how capable they can play. You could see their determination on their faces. Beating Bellingham was a good sign for the future.’’
In spite of a sub-.500 record, Galster lauded her players, calling their work ethic “fantastic in practice and games.’’
They know the bar is high and they responded every day,’’ Galster said. “Our goal will always be to qualify for the tourney. But, next year another goal will be to strive to win more games. Players will improve because there’ll be off-season opportunities, and I’ll continue to work with the Holliston Youth Basketball Association to ensure that our philosophies align.’’
Galster was a guard-forward at Sandwich High for three varsity seasons before enrolling at Brandeis where she majored in math and minored in education. She played a year of varsity college ball but decided to focus on academics her last three years.
Arriving at Holliston in 2007, she eventually took the reins of the freshman team and later moved to the jayvee level. Three of her four years at those venues produced plus-.500 records. Her philosophy includes winning, making sure her players reach their potential and that they have fun during the journey. She also believes learning is an on-going process.
“You’re never done learning about the game,’’ Galster said. “I consider myself a teacher of the sport first. I want our kids to think pro-actively. And, I want to always be objective and open-minded. My assistants (Marc Bender and Joel Bernstein) have been very helpful, and I’ll always run ideas and decisions by them.’’
Galster is a proponent of fast-break basketball, and if she’s got the talent, she’ll rely on that style. “I like the ball being pushed in transition,’’ she said. “If a fast break helps us, we’ll use it. ‘’
Unwilling to single out any one player for a job well-done, Galster prefers to credit her entire team, which included captains Troy Waddell and Matt Jeye, Ryan Snow, Liam Vanesian, Nick Patterson, Ryan Phillips, Steve Mahoney, Nick Athy, John Do Carmo, Dan Higgins, Justin Powell, Chris Donlin, Sam Campbell and Tyler Aronson.
Jenna Galster may have broken new ground in the TVL, but there’s little doubt she’s on par to guide Holliston’s basketball team to success in the days ahead.