Sharing laughs and chattering away with teammates about what the new track and field season would bring, Jordan Guerrero remembers when she first met new head coach Kendra Reimer and assistant coach Marissa Chew early this semester. With a swift hand moment, Guerrero recalls Chew snatching the roll sheet from Reimer and saying a simple hello to the Gator squad. Her firm voice demanded the team’s full attention to take attendance.
“We just looked at each other like ‘What is going on?,’” Guerrero said about the first day of practice. “I thought she was going to be really mean and super strict, but she had to come across like that to get our attention.”
A Gator squad that was once unsure of Chew’s personality would soon discover the coach’s easy going nature and beaming smile as she sang along with the team during conditioning. This was the moment Guerrero and other teammates knew Chew was a part of them.
“That’s when we said ‘Oh, OK she’s one of us,'” Guerrero said. “Our bond is really strong. Coach Chew is a huge part of that because of her personality and energy. She makes us comfortable to be ourselves and not worry.”
Chew said she wanted to get straight to business during the first practice and let the team know she was ready to help them in any possible way.
“I wanted to make sure they were confident in themselves, as well as us as their leaders,” Chew said. “I wanted to show them that they could be strong and that we, as a family, were going to rock this out. There was no reason to be unsure of what was going to be happening.”
Chew competed for SF State’s indoor and outdoor track and field team during the 1999 and 2000 seasons. After competing for two years in the Gator uniform, Chew made the choice to transfer to Cal State Long Beach to pursue a kinesiology and physical education degree.
Once appointed as the new head coach for SF State’s track and field during the 2014 summer, Reimer went searching for an assistant coach who would fit her criteria of being tough and encouraging. With every phone call Reimer would make, she said Chew’s name was recommended for her professionalism and for receiving the highest level of certification in the jumps category via USA Track and Field, a national organization governing track and field programs.
“Her name kept popping up and that’s when I knew I needed to interview her,” Reimer said. “She is the whole package. She’s a great role model for the girls and we’re very lucky to have her on our team.”
Chew said Reimer’s phone call for an interview opened up the opportunity to return to the place where she fell in love with the sport. Without hesitation, Chew said she accepted the offer.
“This is where I learned to really love track, not just to compete and do it,” Chew said. “For me to contribute back to the program that developed me as an athlete is amazing.”
In just her first year as the Gators’ assistant coach for jumps, Chew’s six-member squad has broken multiple personal records, including the noteworthy long jump of Hilary King, who now holds SF State’s school record. Even though Chew said it brings her joy to see her group achieve numerous records, seeing their personal growth as confident young women is the true motivation for her passion of coaching.
“I’m almost about to cry right now,” Chew said as she reflected on her squad’s progress. “It’s just so enamoring to be able to see them perform at their highest altitudes, get these performances down on paper, experience it, feel it, live it and say ‘I know I have even more than this in me and I can do more than this.’”
While juggling to balance being a coach, a single mother to two younger children and working a second job on the weekends, Chew said she has little time to herself but would not trade her hectic schedule for anything. Her ultimate goal as an assistant coach, aside from seeing her track and field members attend the NCAA Division II National Championships, was to see them continue to grow as individuals and succeed in what they set their minds to, she said.
“Coaching wise, what motivates me is seeing our young women progress, who know how to compete, take on adversity and know how to conquer all of that,” Chew said. “We’re definitely a family. Me being almost the mother hen and them being the chicklings. I’m very protective of them and I love to see them grow.”