Lakeview Academy football coach Matthew Gruhn was probably always destined to coach football. Gruhn, the son of former Gainesville High coach Bobby Gruhn, originally was on track for a business degree in college, until he decided he wasn’t a good candidate for the suit-and-tie world.
And as Gruhn prepares for the Lions’ seventh year in program history, fifth year as a varsity sport, he is noticing strides in the program. He hopes that in two years they are ready to play a region schedule and also be eligible for postseason play.
On Monday, Gruhn talked to The Times about the influence his father had on his decision to coach, the advantages of coaching at a private school and the most enjoyable part of coaching football.
Question: What are some of the advantages of working at a school like Lakeview Academy?
Answer: Certainly we have great parental support and the kids are just outstanding kids. I’m sure that’s the case a lot of places. I think our smaller numbers help us get to know the kids better. If we had a team of 80 or 90, it would probably be hard to get to know them all. But when you have what we have, it can be more rewarding to get to know them all better. To me that’s a big advantage.
Q: Since you’re heading into year five as a varsity sport at Lakeview Academy, what are some of the strides you’ve made with the program?
A: I think we are making some strides. We’re getting better numbers. We’ll have more players this season than we’ve ever had and we’ll have over 30 players. For the first time in school history, we were able to go 11 on 11 in spring practice. I think the passion to play football has grown every year and the passion to support the team has grown. Of course, we’re all impatient and want everything now, now, now, but it’s a nice process and hopefully every year we get a little better and compete a little better. Hopefully, we’ll keep climbing the mountain.
Q: Since your father was a coaching legend at Gainesville High, did you know you wanted to coach when you went off to college?
A: No, I didn’t think I was going to coach. I didn’t really know what I was going to do. Even through college, I wasn’t sure this is what I wanted to do. I guess my senior year, I decided this is all I’ve ever known and grown up with it. I knew the ups and downs and ins and outs of it. I had a pretty good role model. So, I decided why not and gave it a shot.
Q: What else did you consider majoring in during college?
A: Well, I was thinking maybe business. I went through the college curriculum and quickly found out that this wasn’t me to be in a suit and tie. That stuff is great, but didn’t feel very comfortable. I think I knew all along, just decided late that I knew what I wanted to do was coaching.
Q: What was the best piece of advice your father gave to you about being a coach?
A: Yeah, now I wish I’d been paying more attention to him as we all do with our fathers. I think the best thing was his example he set. I don’t know if it was his words, or all that, but just his example: How he coached, how he loved his family and how he handled success and failure. His example spoke greater than any words I can ever remember.
Q: What is the most rewarding part of coaching high school football?
A: It’s the improvement of a kid from middle school through high school. It’s watching them buy in to what we are teaching and watching them improve. It’s a great joy. It really is.
Q: How nice is it to have such a supportive fan base for football, even though the program is still new?
A: They really do support it. The support has improved every year. You know, it’s been neat to watch. The students have really gotten into it and our small community really comes out and supports us. It’s kind of neat. We’re trying to establish a Friday night atmosphere. Of course, you have to play well to do that. That helps. It’s neat how that has grown and makes the experience more fun and memorable for the kids. They can look back on it when they move on and say that was a good deal.
Q: Is playing a non-region schedule an advantage to get more kids active in the football program?
A: Well, we hope so. We want to get back to playing a region schedule, hopefully sooner than later. Hopefully, in two years. That’s our plan. We want to get back in and stay in. Playing a non-region schedule may be an advantage, but I think we’re getting to a point where our kids are wanting to (play a region schedule) and our goal is to get back in and play in the region. That’s a great thing when the majority of kids want to. That’s what we need to get is the majority of kids wanting to play in the region, and I think we’re getting there. I think a non-region schedule has helped us because we’ve had a little bit of success, so that helps. But we want to go region, and hopefully we will in two years. This is the path we took and hopefully it’ll pay off for us.