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College players start coaching careers early

Lady Storm coach Emily Sheehan giving instruction during a practice.


SCRANTON – Gabby Giordano, Catie Nealon, Emily Sheehan and Bridgette Mann all spent years playing basketball at Backcourt Hoops.

Now, the four local women’s college players are back at Backcourt Hoops this spring coaching girls teams.

Gab Giordano

The experience of coaching junior high and middle school players during the offseason late in what are still active playing careers has some similarities for the Marywood University and University of Scranton players. There are, however, slightly different motivations in place.

Giordano, Marywood co-captain, is adding experience to what is already a budding coaching career.

Sheehan, who plays at Scranton, and Nealon, who served as Marywood’s other captain in the 2016-17 season, have a way to test whether they want to have coaching be a part of their future. Nealon just recently began considering that as a possibility.

Scranton’s Mann is enjoying an experience she might otherwise miss out on and one she knows may not fit into future career plans.

“I would like to coach after college,” said Giordano, who already has one season of experience as the seventh- and eighth-grade girls’ coach at LaSalle Academy in Jessup last fall and is serving as the assistant junior high softball coach at her alma mater, Holy Cross. “It’s a lot of fun. I enjoy it.

Catie Nealon

“I like seeing people get better and it’s fun being able to be part of that.”

With a team made up strictly of seventh-graders, Giordano increased the commitment level and accomplished the team’s goal of moving above .500.

“When you get to the junior high age, I don’t want to say it’s all about winning, but it’s more about skill development than everyone playing and having a good time,” Giordano said. “That’s something we incorporated last year and it’s going strong.”

While the other three had never coached a particular team through a season or tournament, all four are experienced working with younger players at camps and clinics.

Nealon and Sheehan have done so at Backcourt Hoops.

Mann has run a clinic for players in her school district since graduating from Wallenpaupack.

“I wanted to do that for a while just because I wanted to give back to kids and everything that was offered to me,” said Mann, who operates the clinic for several days each summer to emphasize fundamentals to young players.

Bridgette Mann

After four weekends of games coaching the Backcourt Hoops teams that play local AAU events only, serving as hosts each weekend, the college players all have an increasingly well-rounded perspective on basketball.

Back on their teams in the fall, they may just view coaches Trevor Woodruff and Tara Macciocco in a new light.

“I just said this to Emily,” said Mann, who plans to go to dental school after graduating from Scranton. “‘I finally understand where coach Woodruff was coming from with all his little details.’ He would always stress doing the small things. Everyone is like, ‘all right, whatever.’

“When you’re coaching, you start to realize how many things you do miss as a player, that you can see from the sideline.”

Sheehan has been part of programs with lengthy traditions of success, playing first at Dunmore High School and now at the University of Scranton.

“Every coach that I’ve had has helped me,” said Sheehan, who has her father Joe assisting her with a team. “Now I can see both sides of it because I still play. I can see the player’s aspect and coaching I see what the coaches see and how easily they can get frustrated with things.

“It puts more things in perspective.”

Emily Sheehan

Backcourt Hoops director John Bucci expects each coach to come to the twice-a-week workouts with their practice plan ready. They are free to develop their own game plans and style, but Bucci also reminds them there are plenty of experienced coaches within the program to look to as resources for any strategies or coaching dilemmas they might want to discuss.

Nealon found herself going to the memory bank.

“I put in some plays I learned in high school that I know always were successful for us,” said Nealon, who played four years for Vince Bucciarelli at Abington Heights. “I brought some of my favorite plays here to teach them and they’ve been working, so it’s been fun.”

The plays worked so well that the Lady Storm (Nealon) fifth-and-sixth grade team won all nine games it played in the first three weekend “tournaments,” which had been events where teams played multiple games without pursuing championships.

Lady Storm (Giordano) won all four of its games on the third weekend and had a winning record prior to that.

The Lady Storm (Sheehan) seventh-and-eighth grade team won its division in the Electric City Madness Tournament title April 8-9.

Lady Storm (Mann) is also a seventh-and-eighth grade team

Sheehan and Mann conduct simultaneous practices, running some drills together.

Giordano and Nealon work their teams out together once each week. Each team also has one practice with Lady Storm (Alers), the other fifth-and-sixth grade local AAU team at Backcourt Hoops.

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