A century of tradition hasn’t grown old at Lincoln High

After a decade of service Fighting Zebra AD still has the passion
By: Jim Linsdau Sports Editor News Messenger
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Summer basically means preparatory time for athletic directors like Lincoln High School’s Donna Tofft. Once school’s out she schedules basketball camps and has her prep players participate in a local pickup league through July 16. In her spare time, she paints her office to get it ready for the coming year. Tofft can’t remember exactly how long she’s been in her position. She believes its 10 years or more, but really hasn’t paid much attention to exactly how long. However, her heart is in what she does and she shows little sign of stress. “I love the coaching part,” she said; Tofft is the varsity softball coach and now coaches girls’ junior varsity basketball. She stepped down as the varsity coach some time ago. “I love the teaching part of it.” She stays well ahead of the game when it comes to making up schedules and getting teams to commit to future games. She said now that the Sac-Joaquin Section selects playoff teams based on a school’s overall record, it doesn’t pay to be too good. She said some teams shy away if they think they’re going to get beat in preseason. Still, she has her schedules made up about two years in advance. Lincoln High School is a century school, like Pioneer Valley League opponent Placer High School. LHS turned 102 this year, but it has been kept in good shape in spite of budget woes. Tofft said athletics gets its money through fundraisers and local support as the district has had to make drastic cuts in funding. “It depends on how fancy you want to get,” Tofft said. She said uniforms that used to cost $500, are now $2,000 to $2,500. However, she said Lincoln was a community oriented school. Where some programs have to do very well to draw a crowd to games, Lincoln supports the Fighting Zebras regardless of record. “They’re very, very caring,” Tofft said of the local booster club. “They do a great job.” Tofft said her biggest challenges often come from parents who feel their child isn’t getting enough playing time. In some cases the problem may be a rift that develops between an athlete and the coach. She’s found it’s best to take each issue head on, discover what the real issues are, and tell it like it is. “If you’re honest with the parents they can see it,” said Tofft. “They may not like it, but they accept it.” She does have a handbook for parents and students she gives out when each season starts. It points out the importance of cooperation and support, and the relationship of all involved. It doesn’t prevent all the problems, but little comes her way she’s not prepared for. Tofft said academically most of the LHS players do well. The school loses very few to grade probation during a season allowing for greater program stability. And, there are a few who do well enough to earn athletic scholarships to either two-year, or four-year colleges. She has also developed three basketball tournaments that help to raise funds each year, as well as contribute to player development. Her girls freshman tournament has been running for 10 years, her invitational tournament has been going for nearly a quarter century. As the players began to trickle into the gymnasium for summer camp, Tofft assumed her role as coach. Leading the training was varsity coach Dan Hicks, with help from frosh coach Sylvia Ward, and camp assistant Ed Cummins. About 25 girls in all showed up for the high school camp; the younger players had their camp last week. Tofft looked very comfortable in her role as coach; after all, it’s what she loves.