With a new school year quickly approaching, the Covenant School introduced three new faces to their athletic programs Tuesday night. Jeff Burton will take over as head baseball coach, Rock Watson is the new women's basketball coach, and Annie Gumbs will head up the field hockey team.
Burton is a University of Virginia graduate and has strong ties to the baseball community in Charlottesville. Since leaving UVa, he has coached little league teams, travel baseball teams, and started a non-profit organization called H3 Baseball. He says the opportunity to take over the Eagles program was one he couldn't turn down.
"I wasn't necessarily looking for a high school job, Covenant came to me and said we want you to bring what you've brought to baseball in Charlottesville to this school, and it was an easy sell."
Burton already knows many of the varsity players at Covenant, after coaching them in youth baseball over the years. He's ready to get to work with the program as soon as possible.
"We hope to put in an offseason program here where we can start practicing some in the fall, lifting weights, we've not done a lot of that around here in the past," he said.
Rock Watson played basketball at University of North Texas, and later served in the United States Army for 10 years where he rose to the rank of Sergeant. Since then, he has coached AAU and youth basketball teams, and says player development is one thing that led him to take the job as girl's basketball coach at Covenant.
"As a coach and as a player myself, I've found that a lot of kids don't have that basic foundation and skill set that they need to have success playing the game."
The Eagles will begin practice Nov. 1, and Watson says he's already looking forward to laying down a foundation with his new team.
"The talent, the potential, and the effort is there," he says. "Then just with my teaching and their understanding of the game and what it takes to work hard, then they will have success."
Annie Gumbs isn't too much older than the athletes she will be coaching, but she brings a wealth of playing experience to Covenant. Gumbs played field hockey at Davidson and graduated in 2013. In her senior season, she was second on the team in both goals and points.
"Just getting the call that I would be able to coach here at the Covenant school was extremely exciting, because after having played field hockey for such a long period of time, it was really a part of my life and I wanted to keep continuing that process," she said.
Gumbs said that her passion for the sport drove her to try her hand in coaching, and that the Covenant community has already been very welcoming.
"When I realized I was going to be able to continue coaching and be on the other side of things, not being a player anymore but a coach, I was thrilled because I can't wait to get involved with these girls and really see not only how their game play excels and continues to get better, but how they as individuals also grow."