Strange, unique and memorable.
That is how Cabrillo High School first-year football coach Andy Guyader describes the first meeting with his players in March. It was the day after the school shut down because of the COVID-19 pandemic, so the virtual meeting was held via Zoom.
Now, Guyader has more than 15 years of football coaching experience. He served as a college assistant at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, N.Y., and at Cal Poly. He broke into coaching as the offensive coordinator at Pasadena Poly High School, which averaged 35.7 points per game and won a CIF championship.
But those previous coaching jobs couldn’t prepare him for coaching student athletes through video conferences.
“We had a Zoom meeting soon after I was hired to say a few things and answer any questions,” he recalled of his first meeting with the Cabrillo players. “That was right after the schools closed, and doing things on Zoom was very new.
“At the time, we all probably thought we’d be back at it in time for spring ball, but that certainly played out differently. Once it started to look like this was going to be something that was going to be long term, I started changing my thinking on many things about program development based on this long hiatus.”
Guyader finally is seeing his Conquistadores on the field as the Lompoc Unified School District gave fall sports teams the approval to return to campus for conditioning workouts under strict health and safety guidelines.
“The online meetings back in March were so new. Strange and memorable would be good descriptors,” he said. “Thankfully, I made it to the other side and, 5½ months later, here we are.”
Guyader credits longtime coach Shane Lyon with helping him settle in at Cabrillo.
“He is an outstanding faculty member, knowledgable football coach and someone I look forward to coaching with in the near future,” Guyader said of Lyon. “He and I have spent a lot of mental energy on talking through scenarios and developing a plan for the program. We are happy with how it has started, considering the constraints we are working under.”
Despite the constraints, Guyader said this isn’t the most challenging time of his coaching career.
“But it definitely has been the most unique and memorable,” he said. “Of all the ways I thought this great opportunity was going to unfold after I was fortunate to get this job, I would never have pictured it like this. However, I could not be more excited to continue the journey at Cabrillo High School with the young men I gotten to know over the past few months.”
What has been most challenging is teaching his math classes online.
“Staring at three computer screens while writing on a tablet and using multiple engagement programs while wearing a headset and front lighting in your face, yes, that has never been more challenging,” he said. “But the kids make it a lot of fun for me.
“A great way to spend the day, but I seem to spend a decent amount of the night trying to get ready to do it again the next day. Although I have taught courses for many years, teaching two courses for the first time is very time consuming.”
Guyader has a doctorate degree in civil engineering from Caltech and a bachelor’s degree in architectural engineering from Cal Poly. He was lecturer in engineering at Cal Poly for six years.
In addition, he is founder of a company called The Q5, which specializes in football data analytics, visualizations and game predictions.
Guyader is pleased how the Conquistadores have responded to the new leadership in the football program.
“I have tried to bring a message of small daily improvement that over a long period of time can yield a large gain,” he said. “We just try to hit a single every day and achieve some process goals while protecting gains.
“We’ve been working together to do that across the summer and through the new school year. The best thing is that we know we are improving as a program and learning about the importance of putting the program and the team above all individuals. It is a fun group to be around.
“We are growing a little bit each day in a very good way.”
At the moment, he’s working on the players getting fit. Once health guidelines permit and players can do more at practice, he’ll start figuring out positions.
“The game obviously has an undeniably important physical side to it and figuring out personnel is a fun piece of the puzzle,” he said. “I have worked in so many different offenses and defenses that once we know more about the physical skills within the program we will decide on what schemes will fit us best.
“We have a lot of work ahead of us to get the athletes to a place where they can be pushed athletically and that should come after a few weeks of conditioning sessions on-campus.
“There is a lot of excitement and a feeling that we can create something that the kids are invested in and responsible for. We’ll just focus on general football skills and drills and the scheme will come when the time is right. As long as we can get 11 on the field for some offense, defense and special teams and get lined up, we’ll be moving in the right direction.”