During our time in this pandemic, we have all felt a sense of confusion and eagerness to know “what comes next?” This is very much the case for the sports teams here at Bellarmine. I had the chance to interview Bellarmine’s two new JV Basketball coaches for this upcoming year, and they gave their input on their approach and goals for the program moving forward. It Is already a struggle for those of us who have been a part of bellarmine during this time, but one can only imagine the stress caused for those who are just now coming into an unfamiliar environment. Luckily, the JV team will not have that problem because although they have been away from Bellarmine for a while, both head coach, Vince Charlton, and assistant coach, Anthony Saso, were a part of Bellarmine in their pasts. Coach Charlton coached the JV team at Bellarmine for 9 years ending in 2013, so he will be making his coaching return after a number of years away, and Coach Saso played at Bellarmine and was a member of the 2016 graduating class. Having two coaches who have an understanding of the program from both a player’s perspective and a coach’s perspective is invaluable and will serve the upcoming JV team well.
Often, new coaches have new styles and new priorities for the teams they will be guiding. When asked about priorities for the upcoming season Coach Charlton identified the importance of defense stating that “in order to compete for championships in our league you need to defend.” Many say that defense is the best offense, and it looks as though a precedent will be set on this for future JV teams as it often has in the past. He also mentioned the importance of execution on offense and “Above all, really sharing the ball and finding the best shot on each possession.” The idea of team basketball is a staple for Bellarmine hoops, and the previous two JV teams combined record of 46-1 clearly exemplifies this priority. Coach Saso also spoke on this saying that the team needs “to start establishing relationships early and establish the culture that we want to carry ourselves with.” He went on to emphasize the fact that the team needs to have the mentality that there will be a season. This question of “what comes next” reveals itself here again, and in having this mentality, one can ensure that they keep their eye on the prize and their feet on a path towards success. When looking back at previous JV teams, it is important to note the uniqueness that each team carries, and coach Saso pointed out just that. He noted that it’s imperative to understand that each team is different, and each year is different especially in high school basketball and even more so in JV basketball.” Both coaches agree that maximizing the potential for their team no matter the amount of talent or skill and controlling those variables that they actually can control will prove to be a pathway for success.
This new coaching staff will be one of the many changes for Bellarmine sports in this upcoming year, but the most obvious changes that have happened with basketball have nothing to do with coaching staff but rather how everything has worked at the foot of the pandemic. Many teams have been forced to reschedule and often just completely push back any semblance of a plan that was in place before the whole shutdown occurred. Because of this, each team has required a lot of planning and hard work in order to reach the point that we are at now and where we hope to be. For basketball, it started in the summer. Workouts began on weekdays over zoom, where each player and coach would meet together on a group call with the whole program, and then eventually move to their baskets at either their homes or a park nearby to start skill work. Ball-handling, shooting, and footwork, each represent parts of the game that were available for improvement to players during the summer. Being limited to these and unable to see real game-speed environment and play was a huge disadvantage for both players and coaches alike. For coaches Charlton and Saso, it was an uphill battle because they were getting their first exposure to these players as opposed to the varsity team who had already been exposed to those who would be participating. Although it was a struggle, the adversity that coaches and players faced over the summer prepared them for everything to come. Just like the grind of a regular season, it was a grind to maintain motivation. “Issues like WIFI problems were big obstacles,” Saso said, but the program as a whole really pushed through that summer period and took the steps to get where they are now.
Finally, Coach Charlton and coach Saso were asked about any goals they had for the JV basketball program as incoming coaches, and what they said reflects the many years of success these teams have had and will continue to have. “I always want to be able to compete for a championship,” Charlton mentioned, and his previous 9 years of coaching were founded on the same principal. He and coach Saso also mentioned the need for “Continuous improvement. All successful teams have to continue to get better. Especially in our league, if you are not getting better, you’re losing ground.” As stated, this is especially true for the rigorous and competitive league that WCAL has proven to be year in and year out. Coach Saso mentioned the fact that those same principals were instilled in him when he played, and he plans to do the same in his new role as a coach. Most importantly though, coach Charlton shed light on a necessity for any sports program at Bellarmine. He stated that beyond basketball, he hopes for “growth in players as people in well. Being invested in something bigger than yourself, making sacrifices for the team, and really embracing the team environment are all really important factors for a successful team. Yes you can evaluate a team based on wins and losses, but I like to ask ‘if someone walked into the gym, and the only exposure they had to Bellarmine was watching that team play, what was their impression?’” Yet another important question to ask and one that these two new JV coaches hope to give a great answer to when they step foot in the coaching roles this upcoming season.