Teaching passion


File Photo/The Lion's Roar

Head Coach Ayla Guzzardo interacts with players during a basketball game.

Talent, enthusiasm and dedication carried Ayla Guzzardo from the middle school courts of her childhood to become the head coach of women’s basketball.

Guzzardo was enrolled in several sports as a child, but she found her niche in basketball after she developed skill in the sport.

“It just took off probably in middle school, and since then, it’s just been progressing into where I am now,” said Guzzardo. “I think I liked the competitive edge of it. I’m a competitive person.”

According to Guzzardo, she saw a potential career in basketball during her junior year at St. Thomas Aquinas High School. After high school, Guzzardo played two years for Shelton State Community College followed by two years for the University of Akron. She coached at Akron for an additional four year.

Although Guzzardo enjoyed her coaching experience at Akron, she decided to move on after winning the conference tournament.

“I felt like my job up there was done,” shared Guzzardo. “I was ready to come home to Southeastern.”

The team’s record this season is 9-16 overall with four wins and 10 losses in the conference so far.

“We started off very strong, and we had some big wins versus SMU, versus ULM, but now we’re on a losing streak,” said Guzzardo. “We’re down. So, we’re trying to find ways to pick us back up. The effort’s there. Our girls are giving 110 percent effort. Shots aren’t falling. We’re running out of gas in the fourth. So, we’ve sat as a staff and re-evaluated. What do we need to do to be successful?”

Kenneth Lee Jr., associate coach for the women’s basketball team, feels that Guzzardo connects well with players, in part because she is a former player.

“She’s a player’s coach,” shared Lee. “As a point guard, you’re a leader on the floor. So, her being the head coach, being able to communicate, I think that helps the girls out a lot. She’s used to talking. She’s used to getting everybody where they’re supposed to be. She’s leading us.”

Jaclyn Scholvin, senior guard, discussed how Guzzardo’s experience as a former player makes 

her relatable.

“Coach Guzzardo’s experience as a former player has helped the team relate to her tremendously because she is able to understand exactly where we are coming from in certain situations,” explained Scholvin. “Her experience as a former player has helped not only myself, but our team learn so much more about the game, and in turn, that helps us become more dynamic on the court.”

Guzzardo’s leadership continues off the court as she encourages community service and stresses the importance of academics.

“She does a good job with community service,” said Lee. “The girls get a ton of hours. Academics is definitely huge. She’s making sure they get so many hours in study hall. Even on game days when we have to travel, she’s making sure they get their study hall hours in.”

Scholvin believes Guzzardo wants the best for her players.

“She wants us to succeed just as much on the court as she does off, and she has always gone out of her way to try to help us with whatever we may need whether it has to do with basketball or not,” shared Scholvin.

For Guzzardo, coaching is more than a job. It is a structured, competitive and fast-paced lifestyle she enjoys.

“It’s a passion,” said Guzzardo. “You got to have a passion to coach this game. If you have that, you’re going to be successful.”