Hitting the Ground Running


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Jared Yanniello is looking forward to his first season as the Old Forge boys basketball head coach, eager to set his stamp on the program as quickly as possible.

He plans to hit the ground running.

“One thing I bring to the program is that I have a lot of energy, have always had a lot of energy,” Yanniello said. “I can relate to the kids.”

Having graduated from Old Forge in 2007, Yanniello understands that the players can view him like he’s an older brother. But make no mistake, Yanniello is always in charge.

“They look at it like we’re a bunch of friends, but they know I’m the coach,” Yanniello said. “They just don’t look at me as an older guy.”

As an assistant under longtime head coach Al Semenza, Yanniello got to cultivate relationships with many of those returning players, and they will see some differences between their former and new head coach.

“Our philosophy isn’t going to change,” Yanniello said. “We are going to mix things up, play more aggressively, keep emphasizing the small things, like taking a charge and rebounding, stuff that doesn’t get in the paper.”

One thing is certain, that Yanniello won’t deviate from he has seen work in his years of playing both basketball and baseball.

“My background is that the guys who work the hardest will play in the games,” Yanniello said. “So far, they’ve responded well in the first week of conditioning.”

Yanniello has learned a little bit about pacing practices since he is without players that are on the football team that meets District 11 champion Schuylkill Haven on Friday. As much as he would like to push his players, he’s learned when to back off.

“It’s tough when you only have nine or 10 guys in practice,” Yanniello said. “Guys are gassed, and then when the other group is done, you’re back up.

I’m pleased with the effort, and understand where we’re at. We’ll keep going until they get back,” he added.

They, the football players who also play basketball, have added a degree of difficulty to Yanniello’s first year in charge. The football team’s long post-season run has deprived him of the time to have the entire team together over the first few weeks.

“We’ll see some issues when they come back,” Yanniello said. “When the guys get back in here, they’ve got to get back into basketball shape.”

If the football team goes on for an extended run at the state championship, it will take those players even longer to integrate themselves into the team. Guys like Blue Devils quarterback Jake Manetti will improve the basketball team, but it may take some time before the assorted bumps and bruises from football heal.

Yanniello hopes the longer the basketball team has to go without them, the long-term benefit to his team may be even greater, for two reasons.

First of all, the football players are sure to keep a winning attitude, knowing what it takes to be great, how listening to their coaches has played such a huge part in their success.

“The thing about Jake is that he’s such a competitor,” Yanniello said. “Once they get back, it’s going to improve the team, because they’ll see what they have to do to win.”

The other benefit is the players who may finds themselves in a reserve role after the return of the football players will have picked up valuable experience that will help them and the team by being productive substitutes for Yanniello. In that case, the first-year coach would have an item that is often rare to find in a small school – a deep, trustworthy rotation that would allow the Blue Devils to play with Yanniello’s energy.

“I hope they’ll rise to the challenge,” Yanniello said. “And that they will improve as a team.”

By taking the characteristics of their coach and combining that winning feeling the football team has brought to the school and community, figure on Old Forge being prepared for a successful season in Yanniello’s first year in charge.

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