Jersey City, NJ - Running down court past the bench, the brief glance at the coach stood out as someone familiar.
Probably a former player or coached officiated during the years.
She was coaching the McNair JV girls in a contest against University Charter, a pair of Jersey City schools. The instructions from her bench were encouraging with the accent on teaching. During a time out I asked the varsity assistant who the JV coach was because she looked so familiar.
"Amanda Rosato," she replied. To which yours truly exclaimed, ‘Wow - you are sure fortunate to have her on board."
The assistant agreed.
Amanda Rosato played at New Jersey power St. John Vianney (graduating in ‘97) in the latter part of the 90's. Vianney captured two Tournament of Champions titles during Rosato's playing days. Following Vianney, it was a few exits down the Garden State Parkway to play at Monmouth. Rosato kept going after Monmouth and was one of the last cuts of the Houston Comets. After that tryout she decided to try to play ball in Sicily. There was a limit of three Americans per team so she tried for dual citizenship to play as an Italian. The dual citizenship fell through and Rosato decided against playing overseas.
She coached at a middle school in her Jersey Shore area. When the McNair head coaching job opened this season, she applied. She did not get it but athletic director Hugh Dwyer knew she would be a quality addition and offered her the JV post which she accepted.
Rosato teaches physical education in a grade school in Jersey City. Her commute from the Jersey Shore is a good 45 minutes a day, if the Parkway cooperates. The days become long. No problem for her as she enjoys the challenge.
McNair is regularly among the top five academic high schools in New Jersey. There is an interest in sports among the student body but often the kids trying out are inexperienced. Long time former boys coach Mike Reilly recounted a story meeting prospective basketball players and asking "Who here has experience?" A hand went up and a young man seriously responded, "I do, I play NBA on XBOX."
Rosato knew the academic orientation coming in. Utilizing patience she admits as a former player you want to get out there and do things for them. As a teacher and coach you must put into practical examples and words, what you want done.
"I really like working with the girls," she said. "There is a lot of teaching which I like and we focus daily on skills."
The McNair team ran one or two basic sets. Rosato has been lighter on the plays in the name of drills.
"Dribbling, passing, shooting, every day we are working hard on these skills," she said.
The University Charter game gave her win number one. The record is 1-3. Working the game you can see her teaching has paid off.
If one of her ballhandlers stopped her dribble or was pressured in the front court, she looked for another guard cutting from weak side. Off the ball, screens were set to free cutters. On defense she corrected reach in fouls, verbally instructing players to move their feet while displaying a proper defensive stance. Getting back to teaching by showing.
About a half hour after the game, Rosato is in the hallway leading out of the gym. Three of her players are waiting for rides. Rosato will not leave until every player is accounted for. On this level, it goes with the coaching territory.
We spend a few minutes talking about basketball in general. Rosato recounted her Vianney days, the battles with Piscataway High School and Asjha Jones ("a relentless competitor"). Discussion covers the WNBA and the over-physicality of parts of the women's game.
"There are college teams running better sets than some WNBA teams," she laments.
You can tell in casual conversation that Rosato has a genuine love and passion for the game, a love that began from her earliest days as a player.
A love for the game she is instilling in her McNair JV players who are truly fortunate having her as a mentor.