‘That’s What I Want To Do’: Sam Gjormand Makes History As The First Female Division I Coach

Image credit: Sam Gjormand (Courtesy James Madison University)

Sam Gjormand was born to be in baseball. From the time she was two days old, she was already taking in her first game. It turned out to be the first of many.

Her father is Mark “Pudge” Gjormand, who has coached high school baseball for 35 seasons, with 27 of them for Madison High in Vienna, Va. He coaches travel teams and runs camps year-round, giving Sam plenty of opportunities to be around the sport she loved.

“I was born into it,” Gjormand said. “I played Little League growing up until I aged out, and I just kind of always found a way to stay involved with everything (my father) was doing.”

By her junior year of high school, she had quit softball to manage the baseball team. Just like any prospect, she was scouted for her talents.

Marlin Ikenberry, the head coach at James Madison University, reached out and asked if she would be interested in managing the Dukes baseball program. 

For four seasons, Gjormand worked with the JMU baseball team. She fed the pitching machine for bunt drills, broke down the field and did anything else that needed to be done. It wasn’t until her junior year that she knew it would be her career.

“I was just kind of doing it as a hobby because it was something I like to do,” Gjormand said.  

That’s when JMU director of operations Steven Nagy, who had been a student manager with Gjormand, pulled her aside. 

She recalled: “He said, ‘Hey, I don’t know what you want to do with your career. But you know, if anybody can have a career in baseball, it’s you.’ ”

During the summer of 2020, Gjormand was set to intern for Wareham in the Cape Cod League. Even with the pandemic shutting down seasons, she was determined to continue working in the sport she loved. 

For a month and a half, she became the acting commissioner for the Northern Virginia College League, a summer league started by Gjormand, her father and other local coaches. 

She returned to JMU for her senior year. Once again, her talent had coaches reaching out, including College of Charleston’s Chad Holbrook, who told her she was “the kind of person we want working for us, not against us.” 

Holbrook offered Gjormand a job if she didn’t land her “dream job after this summer on the Cape.”

“At that moment, I just remember being like, ‘Oh my goodness. That’s it. That’s what I want to do,” Gjormand said.

In August 2021, Gjormand began been doing what she only imagined: working in baseball as the director of baseball operations for the Cougars. She had no idea that she would make history doing what she loves. 

After some coaching changes, Holbrook asked if Gjormand would be interested in becoming an assistant coach who would help recruit players. 

“All right, let’s do it,” Gjormand said. “You know, I didn’t really think twice. They brought it to my attention that I would be the first female doing this for a Division I program. It’s cool. I never really think of it that way. I like to think of it as just doing my job.”

Recruiting has allowed Gjormand to see the sport from a different lens. She is always looking for ways to pass on what she has learned, and a few young girls have reached out for advice. 

“It’s just cool being able to serve in that mentor role for young girls who are reaching out to me. I’m realizing how big of a deal it is and how important it is that I get to be a role model for these young girls.” 

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