Ghia Godfree, head coach of the men’s and women’s tennis teams, has her work cut out for her but is handling the pressure with grace. As a Harvard alum and former collegiate softball player, Godfree is bringing an unorthodox background to the Occidental tennis program. Although Godfree did not play tennis in college, she knows a thing or two about winning. In college, where she served as captain, Godfree led the Crimson to two Ivy League Championships. As a head coach of two teams on campus, it is crucial to recognize the time and energy that Godfree puts into this program, and spotlight her as a part of our series on women coaches at Occidental.
Godfree was raised in Pasadena, where her mother taught her to play tennis on the courts at Occidental. Godfree’s mother, Lynda Lyke, has been an art professor at Occidental since the ’70s, and her father, Michael, served as the rugby coach on campus for over 30 years. Godfree’s tennis career started at the age of three, and developed throughout high school where she was ranked nationally. As a lifelong member of the Occidental community, Godfree was raised within the campus culture.
Coaching both the men’s and women’s teams on campus might be difficult, but Godfree is equipped to handle the pressure. Godfree explained that the community of coaches at Occidental is one that supports each other, and leans on one another in times of difficulty. She cited coach Anahit Aladzhanyan of the women’s basketball team as well as coach Stephanie Mark of the women’s lacrosse team for tips and suggestions.
According to Godfree, she encourages her male and female athletes to work together both on and off the court. Tennis, the only co-ed sport other than track and field, creates a tight-knit community, according to Godfree. Isa Kibira (junior) explained that the men’s and women’s teams have come together as one since Godfree took over as coach. According to Kibira, there was an active effort by the men’s team to redirect the masculine dynamic that they had in the past, and work toward creating a more inclusive community of tennis players on campus. Kibira and a few other male players took part in the “Healthy Masculinity” training that Project Safe provided, and with help of Godfree were able to create a new dynamic between the two teams. Now, members of the men’s and women’s teams consider each other as one tennis family.
“You can still get better, no matter who is on the court with you,” Kibira said. “All of us can compete with each other, and have something to learn from one another, no matter the gender of the player.”
Godfree has an innate ability to empower her players beyond the athletic realm, according to women’s captain Lauren Hutkin (junior).
“Ghia empowers all of the women on our team to be the very best versions of ourself that we can be,” Hutkin said via email. “While tennis is clearly her focus, she consistently reminds us of the importance of academics, mental health and kindness. She holds us to very high standards and reminds us to be appreciative of all of the amazing staff members on this campus.”
Godfree is on track to provide the men’s and women’s tennis teams with a successful year, where she hopes to improve the techniques of her players and refine their tennis IQ. The SCIAC is one of the most competitive conferences in all of Division III, and Godfree is ready to take her players to the next level.