ORADELL, NJ - The Fall officiating schedule called for a number of weekend events at or sponsored by Hoop Heaven in Northern Bergen County (NJ). The draw seemed to give mostly boys games but a few weeks ago it was off to Bergen Catholic High School for a girls double header.
In game one the Hoop Dreamz 15-year-old team defeated a good St. Paul's CYO team from Rockland County (NY) 52-42. A good competitive contest working with a good officiating friend Glenn Mezzatesta, a die hard Michigan fan. Well, he is an alum so no surprise over his affinity to the Maize and Blue. Game two saw the Hoop Dreamz younger group defeat the NJ Gazelles 32-21.
Coaching the Dreamz in game one was Billy Armstrong. He is the head coach of Bergen Catholic's varsity. Being an all boys school, Armstrong is immersed in the boy's game. A former player at BC and later Davidson, Armstrong is immersed in the system and beliefs of Bob McKillop who he played for in college. He loves coaching and developing teams and players so it is not unusual to find him coaching several AAU teams in his 'off season'.
When time allowed he was asked the difference between coaching boys and girls.
"The girls are more receptive and better listeners," he said.
At Bergen Catholic, Armstrong has a group that excels in the classroom as well as the floor. But he has coached boy's AAU and sees the differences between the two games, boys and girls.
The girls are focused better on details and look for each other as teammates and share the ball better.*With Armstrong, the girls have an outstanding mentor. Teaching how to play the game correctly and showing patience and compassion. St. Paul's goes zone, Armstrong calls for a high low offense. The defense switches to man, he instructs the 'four out' offense to be employed. On command, the girls get right into action and execute.
Later we talk very briefly about the differences in the men's and women's game. He notes how the WNBA players are providing role models for younger players. He is quick to lament how some of the financially, spoiled and ego driven NBA types are actually turning people off to the game.
Armstrong's wife Lauren is working the clock and asks, "Are you doing another article on Frank?"
She is referring to Frank Muggeo, Armstrong's JV coach who also coaches girls travel and was written about on this site last Winter. The younger Dreamz team is coached by Muggeo. The game is not artistic but their defense is strong enough to allow them to earn a hard fought victory. The ages of the two groups, Armstrong's and Muggeo's, are only a few years but the games and individual executions show how significant those years are.
A few weeks later, discussing prospects of the upcoming season with John Thurston. He is the head coach of St. Francis(NY) of the Northeast Conference. Thurston has had years experience coaching men's teams before moving to the women's game. A move he has enjoyed.
"The egos are not there," Thurston remarked about the women. "They care and want to improve as players but they have more concern for their teammates."
Amazing, or maybe not, Thurston's group is about seven years older than Armstrong's. Yet the similarities are there in the assessment of the two mentors. When told of Armstrong's remarks, thew St. Francis mentor could only smile and nod with appreciation.
"String five girls together who never met, put them on the floor and in no time you will see them screening and looking for one another," Thrurston said. "You just wouldn't see that happening with the boys. Too many times they are out there looking for their own shot."
The girls and women's game has its differences from the boy's and men's. It also has its appeal. And especially to coaches entrusted to teaching them the game.