Special Season: Goodreau honored as Co-Coach of the Year with Saints’ Ingalls
BARAGA — Walking away from the court on March 19, after his girls lost to the eventual Division 4 state runner-up, Baraga Vikings coach Tom Goodreau did not expect that his name would be mentioned in the same breath as the storied coach of the St. Ignace Saints, but that is exactly what happened this week as the two were named Co-Coach of the Year for Division 4 by the Upper Peninsula Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association.
Upon hearing the news, Goodreau was first speechless, then spoke at a mile a minute. He had every reason to be excited. After all, his girls just completed a 21-4 season in which they won both district and regional titles.
“Wow, that’s quite the honor,” said Goodreau. “That’s awesome.
“It really was a great season with all the hard work the girls put in during the offseason.”
Goodreau has been with the Vikings for four years, two as an assistant under former head coach Keith Willis, who now coaches the 8th Grade girls, and two as the head coach. He said that he learned a lot working with Willis, who taught him the importance of defense.
He had to work hard this year to get the six girls he had on the roster to come together as a group, but he felt that was the difference between them and their opponents, who most nights had as many girls on the bench (six) as he had dressed in total.
“The way they played this year, only having six of them, they had to play disciplined,” said Goodreau. “The style of basketball that I believe we should be playing, we play as a team. Any one of my six girls could have been the high scorer for us.
“That was really key.”
Knowing his roster was going to be smaller than ideal, Goodreau worked the girls hard on getting conditioned very early in the preseason so that they would be ready for the challenge of a 20-game regular season and possibly, a playoff run.
“Right away, we had to start with conditioning,” he said. “There was no complaining or anything. They knew they had to do it because there were only six of them. Every day, they came into practice and worked hard.”
Another challenge that Goodreau had to deal with was the fact that, unlike other schools, this group of mostly freshmen and sophomores had hardly been on the same court at the same time growing up.
“There were some differences at times,” Goodreau said, “but they really put them aside because they knew that was the best thing for the team.”
While he had balance in his team’s offense, what impressed Goodreau even more was the willingness of his girls to battle defensively as hard as they could.
“Defensively, we did just a fantastic job,” he said. “Especially considering we only had six girls for the whole season.”
Goodreau stressed, throughout the season, that his team had makeup to be successful if they wanted to. He kept asking them, “Why not?” He felt that they needed that constant reminder that they were talented enough to continue to move forward.
Once his girls started to believe it for themselves, Goodreau noticed a real change in his girls.
“It was just a huge difference,” he said. “The turning point for us was when we played L’Anse at home. We just put it all together. Every game they wanted to prove themselves.”
Figuring out what combination of players to run with on the court was not as easy as one might think with such a short bench. Goodreau had to move his senior point guard, Martina Jahfetson, a three-year starter on varsity, around the lineup in order to give freshman guard Reide Osterman a chance to show what she could do. Rather than complain, the veteran found several ways to contribute, allowing the youngster to blossom.
Goodreau then saw the rest of the team respond positively to the tough decision.
“That really opened the girls’ eyes, because they knew, ‘Hey, right now, I might be playing small forward, but I might be playing shooting guard in the second quarter.’ The girls ended up playing multiple positions.”
Goodreau was proud of everything his team accomplished, and about how much the rest of the school took notice as well, especially after they beat L’Anse at home.
“It was a real blessing to coach those girls this year,” Goodreau said. “The support from the administration and from the community was just awesome.
“We had a really good crowd for that game (against L’Anse). People kept coming. The girls kept saying, ‘We have a big crowd out there tonight. We need to put it all on the line.'”
The Vikings coach had a mantra he used throughout the year: if you’re not exhausted at the end of the game, then we have a problem. Goodreau felt that his girls really understood that and took ownership of it.