New Valley girls hoops coach aims to nurse program back to health
Mindy White is a registered nurse at UPMC Shadyside.
The new Valley girls basketball coach will need to request time off soon so she can attend games and practices this winter. That means she'll likely have to peruse the team's schedule before she even meets her players.
The former Mindy Beale, a Highlands graduate, will be curious about when the Vikings play her alma mater, but she'll highlight other games first.
“I'm already thinking about the Mars and Hamptons of the section,” said White, a 2003 Highlands grad who also played point guard at La Roche. “I see all walks of life where I work. There are surgeons who make seven figures, down to people who don't even have health insurance.
“I know coaching here is a difficult challenge, but I feel I am up for it.”
Valley has combated questionable dedication among players the past several years. Low roster numbers led to four forfeits last season.
Still, the team has remained competitive, winning four games in each of the last two seasons while going 8-15 in 2011 and making the WPIAL Class AAA playoffs with a lineup that sometimes played with three or four girls — no exaggeration.
Valley hasn't had a winning season since 2002-03.
Frustrated by the low numbers and apparent lack of changes ahead, Jeff Cheatham resigned in February after four seasons.
White, 28, who lives in Upper Burrell — just up the hill from Valley — saw an opportunity. Her only high school coaching experience came last season when she served as an assistant at Highlands.
“There's talent there,” White said. “(Valley) beat us last year, and they beat Kittanning and Knoch. When I played, Valley had players like Marisa Smith and Gerria Ballard; Valley was the top team in the section. Those girls were not only good athletes, but they were extremely intelligent and great students.
“Valley has had success in the past, I just think over the years girls sports sometimes fall through the cracks. Look at the girls soccer team. They are starting to pick up, and they credit (youth leagues).
“We need to give our girls an opportunity to play outside of school so they can stay interested.”
White coached some Highlands girls in a local summer league and worked alongside Deer Lakes coach Dana Petruska, one of the most revered coaches in the Alle-Kiski Valley.
“She had some of her girls help us out,” White said. “You can learn a lot from a coach like her.”
Like Petruska, who's as much about discipline as she is Xs and Os, White plans to enforce her guidelines.
She also hopes to draw on experience gained while playing for coach Eddie Benton at La Roche.
“I am a very busy person and don't have time to waste,” she said. “We're going to be disciplined. And we're going to be conditioned.
“I am not there to make friends; I am there to coach and teach life lessons.”
White knows bringing interest back to the program will require support from the school and community.
“Hopefully we can revitalize the program,” New Kensington-Arnold superintendent John Pallone said.
White said new Valley boys coach Mark Faulx is allowing girls players to come to his open gyms.
“That's nice of him to do,” White said. “The main thing now is to get the girls in the gym. I am looking forward to meeting them and getting things under way.”
Bill Beckner Jr. is the local sports editor of the Valley News Dispatch. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.