For nearly four decades, Frank Gendusa has served as a teacher, administrator, and coach, specializing in cultivating the talents of student-athletes, including many who have gone on to play in college and professionally. He has been the athletic director and football head coach at St. Martin's since 2018.
For nearly four decades, Frank Gendusa has served as a teacher, administrator, and coach, specializing in cultivating the talents of student-athletes, including many who have gone on to play in college and professionally. Gendusa previously worked at Fort Worth Country Day School in Texas, where he led the school to a conference title in 2010 and was named Texas Private School Coaches Association Coach of the Year in 2011. Gendusa also served at Isidore Newman School from 1981 to 2004, coaching eventual NFL stars Peyton and Eli Manning. He won the President Gerald R. Ford All-American High School Coach Award in 2004 and was named district coach of the year multiple times. Gendusa is a veteran of the United States Navy.
In the summer of 2018, St. Martin’s announced Gendusa was not only taking the reins of the school’s football program but also stepping in as athletic director.
You worked as a teacher, administrator, and coach at Isidore Newman School for more than 20 years, then moved in to serve as athletic director and football head coach at Fort Worth Country Day School in Texas. How does it now feel to be back in New Orleans, and at St. Martin’s? It has been a long journey. I’ve been looking forward to coming home for some time. I have known [Head of School] Merry [Sorrells] for many years and my grandson is here at St. Martin’s as well. Getting the opportunity to rebuild a football program that has been down a little bit, but has been good in the past, is exciting for me. I’m really excited to be here.
When you arrived on campus and officially joined the StM community, what was your first priority? My first priority was to get the football program going, as I originally signed on as the head football coach, but as the opportunity to be the athletic director became a reality, I started looking at a lot larger picture. I began thinking about things such as evaluating the existing staff, taking a look at our facilities, thinking about finding a way to attract student-athletes who will be successful in the classroom and as athletes. When you come in new, you have to sit back and learn about how things have been done, but you also want to use your experience and perspective to think about the goals you want to achieve and how to put those things into motion.
Talk to us about your athletic philosophy. What does it mean for StM athletes? We have to teach students how to compete. That sounds simple, but if you look at the society we live in today, everything is a competition. They’re competing in the classroom to earn the best grades they can now. Then they will move on to compete in college. They’ll compete for jobs and compete to be the best person they can be. Our job is to teach students how to be competitive, to compete with class, and to uphold high standards of character. Eventually, our athletes will forget about the wins and losses, but your character--how your personality has been shaped by the school you’re in--is going to stay with you forever.
When a St. Martin’s athlete graduates and goes on to college, what is one thing you hope to have imparted to them? I hope our students will have learned how to focus and budget their time. At St. Martin’s our students have an advantage. Being a smaller school means that our students balance a lot of extracurricular activities to be able to field all the teams and clubs we have here. So our students are really learning to work together and manage their time well. They’re confident heading into college because they’ve gained that background and the character traits they need while they were here at St. Martin’s.
Throughout your coaching career you’ve racked up some pretty impressive awards — 2011 Texas Private School Coaches Association Coach of the Year, President Gerald R. Ford All-American High School Coach Award (2004), District Coach of the Year (1994-95, 1997-99), and All-Metro Coach of the Year (1994) — to name a few. What is one accomplishment that you’re proud of that doesn’t appear on a resume? The greatest thing about being a coach and a teacher is not necessarily something you accomplished on the field or in a classroom, but it’s what you feel when you see a former student later in life. I love when my former students come back and visit with me and tell me how they’re doing in life. Sometimes they’ll send me letters or I’ll run into them. It’s a great feeling to have someone tell me how they’re doing, to see that they’re a success as they grow, and to know you somehow played a part in that.
Can you name someone from your past whose mentoring you admire or hope to emulate? If there was one person I had to name who influenced me the most in coaching, it would be Coach Reginelli from Newman School. Coach “Reg” and I coached together for 23 years. He taught me humility, how to win with class, and that you have to work really hard to be successful. Other than my dad, he is probably the most influential person I’ve been around.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received? I’d have to say there are two pieces of advice that have always stuck with me. The first is that once you get into a leadership role you have to hire good people and let them do their job. If you hover over them or micromanage them, you won’t be successful. The second is that there will always be conflicts. But no matter how you feel about the topic you’re talking about, you must always approach it from the standpoint of being kind. Choose kindness always.
In what ways do you hope the StM athletics program can engage students, even if they are not elite or varsity athletes? I think being part of an athletic team is a learning experience in itself. Most independent school athletes won’t continue to play in college and beyond. But the traits they learn will stay with them for life -- the traits of character, being humble, being kind, and understanding that we’re all different, but that’s part of the fun. Anyone who is part of an athletic team at some point in their life, I guarantee, will have picked up some or all of these traits by virtue of participating on that team.
Look into a crystal ball. What do you see in the future for the St. Martin’s athletics program? I think StM athletics can be as successful as we want to be. We have to overcome the obstacles that all athletic departments and all athletes have. We have to learn how to compete, work hard to achieve your goals, and know that nothing comes easily. The sky is the limit for St. Martin’s. There will be up and down years. It is very, very hard in a small school setting to be at the top every year. We’re going to naturally have some ebb and flow. But we’re going to work hard to make sure those valleys aren’t as deep as they used to be. I’m really excited about the future of St. Martin’s athletics.
You served as both football head coach and athletic director at Fort Worth Country Day as well. How do you balance all of those responsibilities? In the fall, it is a challenge. Our coaches understand that while football is in season, a lot of my focus is on the games week in and week out. This is my third stint as an athletic director at a school, so what I’ve tried to do over the years is to spend the daytime hours taking care of my athletic director responsibilities. I work hard to try to make sure each team has the opportunity to be as successful as possible. Then about an hour before practice starts, I try to switch gears and focus on what I need to do for football.
I care about all of our student-athletes and I want to make sure all our athletes have what they need to be successful. Once football season ends, you’ll see me at most games. Other sports are hard to get to while I’m in season, but once the season ends, I enjoy getting to the other sports and seeing our multiple sport athletes playing in the winter and spring.
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