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Spartan Spotlight: Meet Coach Jes Guarneri

“Coach Guarneri has done a great job in her first year as our Head Girls Basketball Coach. She has worked really hard to develop her players both individually and as a team. Under her leadership, they had made great strides throughout the year, setting themselves up for a magical postseason run. In addition to her coaching, she is an outstanding teacher who invests in her students. With Coach Guarneri’s commitment excellence and genuine connection with her players, the future for GAC Girls Basketball is bright.” - Tim Hardy, GAC Athletic Director and Head Football Coach

It’s her first year as the Head Coach of the Girls Basketball team, and high school math teacher Jes Guarneri is already making waves in the community. This season she led her team to victory at the State Championships for the first time since 2007. 

Originally from New Jersey, Coach Guarneri’s passion for sports and athletic ability led her to UNC-Asheville on a basketball scholarship. After coaching collegiately for three years at Francis Marion University and holding numerous coaching positions both in New Jersey and South Carolina, she found her way to GAC through a mutual connection. Now, she’s blessing the Spartan community with her talent and heart for mentorship and basketball. 

“I saw determination and growth playing for Coach G this season. As a new head coach, she faced many adversities. But her ability to communicate well with her players and be open to trying new things contributed greatly to our success this season,” said GAC Senior and player Jillian Thomas.

“She makes sure to have an open relationship with all her players. Coach G stands up for her players and will do anything to help us learn while having fun playing a sport we all love. I am grateful I was able to be coached by Coach G for my final season playing at GAC and for all of the great memories that came from this season,” continued  Jillian.

To learn more about this outstanding educator and mentor, read through her interview below: 

Tell us a little more about your upbringing and family life. Where are you from? Where did you grow up?  
I grew up in Piscataway, New Jersey and attended Piscataway High School. My parents Lou and JoJo are NYC natives. I’m the second of five kids. I have three sisters Lisa, Jennifer, Lauren, and one brother, Daniel.

Where did you go to undergrad? Why did you choose that university? 
I went to UNC-Asheville on a basketball scholarship. I transferred going into my senior year to Wingate University where I finished my playing career and started my coaching career.

Tell us a little more about your undergrad? What is your degree in? Why?
At UNCA I was studying architecture. I had always wanted to be an architect because it combined my passions: math and drawing. When I transferred to Wingate, they didn’t offer that field, so I pursued and graduated with a degree in Marketing. 

Do you have an advanced degree? 
I am currently pursuing my Masters of Art in Math Education. 

What is your role at GAC?
I teach high school math, mainly honors geometry, and I coach the Girl’s Basketball team! Go Spartans!!
 
What drew you to GAC? Share how you found GAC and decided it was the place for you.
My great friend Robbie Wilson came to GAC about 7 years ago. I came to town from South Carolina for Robbie and Kristen’s baby shower, and while there, Robbie told me there were openings in the math department. Initially apprehensive, he urged me to at least have some conversations and apply. I applied to appease him. 

During the interview process, the Lord was working on my heart and telling me this was where I was meant to be. It was a hard decision for me because I loved where I was in South Carolina, but it took a major leap of faith to trust God and come here. 

My journey to GAC taught me that God’s plans are always better than mine!

Did you grow up playing sports? 
Yes! My whole family loves sports. I grew up having epic kickball games in the backyard. Sports were always a part of my life. I played field hockey, basketball, and softball in high school. 

What motivated you to go into coaching? 
Once I realized I couldn’t compete on the court anymore, I felt empty. Coaching was naturally the next best thing to still be involved with the thrill of competition. 
 
What do you love about coaching? 
I love the transfer of knowledge that coaching provides. Not only from me to my players, but also from them to me. I love being able to problem solve over the course of the game as well. But what I love the most are the relationships that are formed through coaching that last a lifetime!
 
What do you do to connect with and motivate athletes? 
More than anything I want the girls to have ownership of the team. I think it’s important that everyone on the team knows their voice is important. I try extremely hard to make sure they know how valuable and loved they are. 

Tell us about this state championship team. Would you describe your experience with them this season? 
I don’t know where to begin! This season was an absolute rollercoaster. At the beginning of the year, the core team members were going all around campus trying to recruit players so that we would have enough to even compete. 

Once the season started and we had the numbers, we were faced with one of the hardest schedules in the state, competing against some of the top programs. While the wins and losses weren’t in our favor early on, we took lessons away from each one of those games and continued to improve. 

The girls came ready after Christmas break, and we knew we had something special. We suffered a heartbreaking loss in the region championship losing to North Hall by one point, which placed us on the toughest side of the state tournament bracket. We knew it wasn’t going to be easy, but we always believed we were capable. Each member of this team gave everything they had to make sure we came out on top. I couldn’t be more proud of them!

What do you love most about your job? 
I genuinely love every part of my job: teaching, building relationships with students, coaching, my co-workers... all of it!

How would you describe the culture at GAC? 
GAC is a family! I love how committed everyone is to striving for greatness in everything they do. I am constantly encouraged, supported, challenged, and loved at GAC. I couldn’t imagine a better place to work. I have made friendships that I know will last a lifetime here.

Where would someone find you outside of the classroom? What are your hobbies? 
I love to paint, from canvases to full wall murals. Painting is my favorite hobby!

What is a book you’ve read recently? 
“Acres of Diamonds” by Jentzen Franklin

What’s one thing that’s still on your bucket list? 
Skydiving! What a rush that would be.