Coach G values empathy, improvement, community

Athletic director is all about family, fatherhood, friends, football, fighting for a better future and Atticus Finch


Lindsey Plotkin

IT’S FOOTBALL BABY: Holding his daughter Camilla, head football coach Thomas Gammerdinger runs the football teams at the Manor scrimmage in 2019. At this particular game, Gammerdinger had to bring his daughter in spite of the summer heat because she hadn’t hadn’t been feeling well. Luckily, he had plenty of help from his assistant coaches. Camilla’s personal favorite being Coach Steve Searle. “Anytime Camilla is up here, they’ll all jump in and help take care of her,” Gammerdinger said.Though Camilla was a fun addition to the team on Thursday, she is seldom on the sidelines at games. Gammerdinger says his schedule with football limits his time with his daughter: “It’s hard not being with her all the time,” he said. “I usually wake up and leave before she even wakes up, then I come home to her fast asleep.” Although it is never a good thing for a baby to be sick, parents and players at McCallum were sure glad that they got to see her at the scrimmage.

Anna McClellan, design editor

According to Vanity Fair, the Proust Questionnaire was originally made as a parlor game popularized, but not made by, Marcel Proust, a French essayist, and novelist. Proust believed that in answering 35 questions, the true nature and values of a person are unveiled. 

In this edition of Maculty version of the Proust Questionnaire, senior design and visuals editor Anna McClellan sits down with head football coach and athletic coordinator Thomas Gammerdinger, more commonly known around campus as “Coach G.”

The Shield: What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Coach G: I’m at my happiest spending time with my family. I guess that would be perfect happiness is the company of my family and friends. 

TS: What is your greatest fear?

I almost hate to say it because I would hate for something to happen but for anything to happen to my daughter. That would be my greatest fear. 

Finding the good in your current situation is important or else you’re unhappy all the time.

— Coach Gammerdinger

TS: What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?

Sometimes I’m overly compulsive about things, but I think that helps me in some ways, too. I kind of have lots of interests, I feel like I like to try.  Kind of a jack-of-all-trades, I like to do a lot of things a little bit. I kinda wish I was a little better at getting really good at, like, a few specific things. 

TS: What is the trait you most deplore in others?

Selfishness, I dislike. Ego. I think those kind of go hand in hand. Self-centeredness, there ya go. 

TS: Which living person do you most admire?

I guess I would say my parents.

TS: What is your current state of mind?

I’d say probably at peace. 

TS: What do you consider the most overrated virtue?

The most overrated virtue, and I hate to say this, I think maybe intelligence? I think intelligence may be more of a characteristic or trait than a virtue but I would say intelligence, and the reason behind that is I think it’s often used in the wrong way. 

TS: On what occasion do you lie?

I try not to lie. Lying would probably be back in that other question with things I don’t like about people. I would say that the time I lie is sometimes to protect people’s feelings. I try not to do even that, but sometimes it’s, sometimes to protect people’s feelings it’s for the good; for instance, if I was talking to you as a player, I wouldn’t lie to you about your skill set or something like, “No it’s OK you’re really good.”’ if you’re not very good. I’d say, “no, here’s some things you need to work on.” But if it’s something that can’t be changed, it’s just like the nature of somebody, or something, or a situation, and I feel like I’m gonna protect somebody’s feelings by telling a lie. I suppose that the situation is protecting people’s feelings in a situation where there is no room for improvement. 

In 2018, Coach G offered the rarest of gifts, an in-game smile to lineman Alvino Carbajal after he blocked a punt, recovered it and ran it in for a touchdown. Photo by Annabel Winter.

TS: What or who is the greatest love of your life?

Well my wife and my daughter, and soon-to-be my new daughter. I have another one coming in February. That’s not even hard. My wife, my daughter and my next daughter. 

TS: When and where were you happiest?

I try to think I’m happiest right now. I think that’s always important to try and make sure you’re happy in your current situation. Finding the good in your current situation is important or else you’re unhappy all the time. Well, again you’re going to have to say the birth of your child, too. Obviously that. So you know, the day my daughter was born would be your stock answer there, but you know, I’d like to think I try to be my happiest every day. 

TS: Which talent would you most like to have?

Any kind of musical ability. Or really just artistic ability generally speaking. But in particular, music. I wish I was better at music. 

TS: What do you consider your greatest achievement?

Obviously, having a family, that’s a pretty common achievement, but I am very proud of my family. And then, outside of having a family and friends that I feel that I’ve done right by those. Obviously becoming the head football coach, working my way up from seventh-grade football coach to a head coach. That’d be like a professional achievement. I don’t know where you would put a professional versus a personal achievement, but as far as a personal achievement I’d say it’s my family. 

TS: If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be?

Maybe somebody who could fix some of the craziness going on right now in the world. The divisiveness and stuff. Maybe just somebody who could come back and unite people on a large scale.

TS: What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?

Being alone. I value being alone like in the car, or having time to myself, or spending time alone, I do enjoy that. But to not have people in your life that you’ve impacted or that care about you or that you care about, I think that would be pretty miserable. 

TS: What do you most value in your friends?

I really enjoy being around funny people, but people who are also considerate. I think it’s the same thing, you know, people who are considerate of other people. People who put other people in front of themselves. 

TS: Who is your hero of fiction?

I really like Atticus Finch. He was good. He was selfless and considerate of others. 

I had a good coach one time who used to say, ‘Losers make excuses and winners make things happen.’ And I think that’s kind of a cruel motto so I don’t know if I fully believe in that, but I like the nature of trying to overcome it because failure is a part of life.

— Coach Gammerdinger

TS: What is it that you most dislike?

I guess I would just say, just in general, the tribalistic and manipulative nature of politics in America. Maybe that’s not the thing that I dislike most but being cruel to animals or people. Cruelty would be up there, just as far as a general thing. As far as right now, what I’m frustrated with is the political system and the tribalism and the manipulation of it. 

TS: How would you like to die?

I suppose the easy answer would be in your sleep, after a long, long life, that would be the easiest answer. To live a long life and then die peacefully in your sleep would be the easiest way to go. But I also think if I die doing something special or selfless for somebody else would be a pretty good way to go. 

TS: What is your motto?

I don’t walk around necessarily and say “This is my motto in life” or whatever. I had a good coach one time who used to say, “Losers make excuses and winners make things happen.” And I think that’s kind of a cruel motto so I don’t know if I fully believe in that, but I like the nature of trying to overcome it because failure is a part of life. And I think trying to overcome failure, be introspective as far as figuring out where your weaknesses are and what your shortcomings are and what you failed at, and being honest with yourself about that and then working to fix it.

I wouldn’t want it to come off as like a big-time boot straps-type thing because certainly people are dealt bad hands and some people fail outside of their control, but the idea that you may fail, and you may experience tough times, or you may have shortcomings as a person, and your ability to recognize that and accept it and try and grow from it and make something better out of your situation, I suppose it kind of embodies that.