Lackawanna Trail is taking advantage of a few things by appointing Joel Neitz as its varsity volunteer head coach this season.
First, the Toledo, Ohio, product brings experience to the table.
Neitz began coaching basketball soon after college. In 2004, he joined the staff coaching the men’s team at Baptist Bible College, now Clarks Summit University as he completed his masters at the University of Scranton.
Fifteen years later, after serving in assistant and head coaching positions, the program and administration of CSU decided to go in another direction and Neitz was let go.
“It was ok, I was able to spend more time with my family, and golfing,” said Neitz.
Another benefit the Lions were able to capitalize on was the timing.
“I was having conversations with my family about going back to coaching sometime soon, and they were ready for me to go back,” he laughed. “My kids enjoy being around the teams, and the players, and seeing daddy work with them. They are seven and three now, and really enjoy the team atmosphere. They are also excited I am coaching girls now.”
He added, “I really enjoy coaching, and my wife knew I wanted to get back into it. She encouraged me, and supported me, in that role. I took a step back from coaching for a little bit, but my coworkers at Trail and the Lions community as a whole, have encouraged me to get back into it.”
“I applied for the position, and felt very positive. With the timing, it was right time to get back on the sideline,” he added.
Neitz, who also coaches the Trail varsity golf team in the fall, said his coaching inspiration was his high school baseball and basketball coach.
“His connection of the game to real life experience prepared us to be better men,” explained Neitz.
Neitz was appointed as the girls head coach in a volunteer capacity due to the current coronavirus pandemic, with the intention of being named head coach contractually once the district receives direction for the winter sports season.
“I have been talking with a lot of the parents, and confirming that the plan is for me to continue into the head coach position once we get through this. Right now we are working through basic thoughts and ideas to where we need to be,” he said.
Trail is profiting from Neitz being a math teacher in the high school.
“I see a lot of good athletes in the halls, but not many of them are on the girl’s team. I will be able to reach out and make contact with them,” he clarified. “I think it helps high school athletics tremendously when the head coach is in the district. It is very important to the sustainability of progress, and at the same time it is offering a continuous presence.”
Neitz continued, “It helps the team stay engaged together and adds accountability. At smaller schools, like Trail, most of the better athletes are three sport participants, and that helps them develop better as an athlete. We will look to build confidence, build trust, and build relationships through proper coaching.”
Though he admits to not being familiar with the talent level on his new roster, Neitz isn’t concerned because he had some of the players in class.
“I honestly don’t know a whole lot about the program here, we are going to play it by ear. I have relied on the athletic director, parents, and people around the school to tell me what is going on,” he said, adding that he had not had the chance to speak with previous coach Lauren Sheakoski.
“I use basketball to teach players about life and grow athletically as young women,” he explained.
“We are excited to get to work and hope COVID-19 can clear out so we can work and grow as a team,” he added.