Irick Gardner has taken over the Rochester Adams volleyball program.
Gardner comes to the Highlanders after nine seasons with Bloomfield Hills Marian. In that time, the Mustangs played for four state championships, winning two, and won six Catholic High School League titles.
“It certainly is not boring to win, but it kind of gets to the point where you’re looking for another challenge,” Gardner said. “You have to know when it’s time, and it was a time for a change.”
Gardner said he’s excited about the prospect of leading Adams to new heights. In the last two seasons, the Highlanders have finished at the bottom of the Oakland Activities Association Red Division. This year, they’re in the OAA White.
Gardner said he’s been taking the team to different tournaments around the state, taking on some of the top programs for a learning experience.
“That’s kind of the ‘welcome to what it takes to get better,’” Gardner said. “The biggest adjustment has been the culture, trying to get them to learn the culture of what it takes to win. Just the little things that the good teams already know. Giving 100 percent effort every time, even when you don’t think you can get to the ball. It’s the little things like that that puts yourself in position to be successful.”
Gardner admits that the team has a ways to go, but he has seen glimpses of its potential.
In a tournament earlier this season, the Highlanders split with Lake Orion High. The Dragons are ranked second in the state in Class A, according to the Michigan Interscholastic Volleyball Coaches Association.
“We struggled to beat Lake Orion when I was at Marian,” Gardner said. “To split with a team like Lake Orion, that shows there is some potential here.”
Even if the winning standard that Gardner is used to doesn’t come right away, the coach said he wouldn’t change a thing about his decisions.
“If any program was to open up and ask me to coach, I’d say, ‘I’m happy right here,’” he said. “I think the reward will be greater once we get there.”