GLENDALE — Sprawled across brand new field turf was a Hoover High football team that was very much brand new itself.
Hardly your average spring practices, first-year Tornadoes Coach Matt Andersen held tryouts as much as he did spring ball.
“It is a tryout,” said the 27-year-old Andersen, who ran varsity spring workouts at Hoover from June 5 through June 14, on the Thursday before practices concluded. “This week has just been let’s see who can move around. Let’s just get them out there doing drills, flying around.”
Flying around was an accurate description, as Andersen ran a high-tempo, energetic practice that was more about running and catching and passing and finding out about the athletes he had and where they could potentially play. There were no schemes introduced really, as Andersen and his Tornadoes were truly just introducing themselves.
“I’m getting there,” Andersen joked about getting to know all the players. “I got a yearbook, so I’ll put names to faces pretty soon.”
Andersen was hired on to lead Hoover in late-May, filling the vacancy left by Andrew Policky, who departed after two seasons to his alma mater Arcadia. Andersen takes over a program that went 3-7 a season ago and 1-6 in the Pacific League, which was one of the program’s more successful seasons in years. And, in terms of taking over a program with a losing history, he also filled a vacancy left by Policky that came just as most teams were starting spring ball.
Andersen has no reservations that a difficult task lies ahead, but seemed thoroughly undaunted. For one, he’s quick to profess that turning the program around is not something that will be done quickly, certainly not in one spring. And, perhaps more than anything, Andersen is quick to admit he is right where he wants to be.
“It’s kinda what I expected,” Andersen said. “I knew it was gonna be a lot of hard work. It’s so much more than Xs and Os.
“We are building. I think we can win. But again, it’s a process. It can’t happen overnight.”
A standout running back at Occidental College, Andersen, whose grandfather was a football coach, began coaching at his alma mater in 2008 as an assistant. He also coached flag football at Toll Middle School, where he teaches. But leading the Tornadoes is his first head coaching job.
“Always, growing up, I wanted to coach football,” Andersen said. “I have an opportunity to do some special things here.”
During a week and change of spring practice, Andersen was very much looking to lay a preliminary foundation and begin introducing himself and the new age of Hoover football to hopeful players as well as vice versa.
“We’re just trying to find our potential,” said senior-to-be Alvin Kim.
One aspect that seemed to resonate with the players was the energy exuded by Andersen and the way the practices — or tryouts — were run in general.
“It’s exciting. [They’re] very organized,” said senior-to-be James Rubalcaba. “It’s sort of a tryout. ... It’s definitely one of the most exciting two weeks of practice.”
More than anything, it was a first impression, as Hoover football is now in its dead period, with summer practices set to commence in the second week of July.
In fact, Andersen didn’t even have all of his coaching staff present. He was still waiting on former All-Area and All-Mission League quarterback Luke Collis of St. Francis, who played at Oxy, as well. All of Andersen’s staff is familiar with him and his Oxy background.
“They’re either guys I played with or guys I coached with,” Andersen said.
But Andersen isn’t just looking at help from a good coaching staff.
“To turn this program around, it’s gonna be the community, the parents, the fans, the whole faculty,” Andersen said. “All of that needs to happen. It’s not just a commitment from the players.”
Indeed, Andersen knows what lies ahead and that the spring was only the start.
He was looking for players and he’ll continue to do so.
“We’re just trying to get kids out here,” he said. “Hoover has a ton of good athletes who aren’t out here.”
That’s just one of the tasks at hand for Andersen as, if nothing more, the recently past spring was the first glimpse at a very new Hoover program.
Gone are All-Area talents Gio Martinez and Jesse Pina along with 17 other seniors from last year’s squad. Policky has departed and so too gone is a ragged home field.
Now there’s shiny new field turf and a very new bunch of Tornadoes who will be led by a new coaching staff captained by a coach in Andersen who’s ready to lead the way.
“This is what I’m doing, this is what I want to do,” he said. “At the end of the day, all the work I’m doing is to build a program.”