Ligonier Valley basketball is a team effort for Hepner family
When a player has a parent for a coach, they frequently catch extra flack for mistakes. When Ligonier Valley freshman Trent Hepner does not run a play right on the basketball court, he hears about it from three different directions.
Trent's father, Todd, is the head coach of the basketball team, assisted by Trent's grandfather, Wayne, and older brother, Joey. On game night, Trent's mother, Lani, keeps the score book for the Rams.
Trent said he believes as the coaches' relative he received the lion's share of the criticism on the team this year, but felt it was meant as a form of encouragement to improve his skills.
“It is definitely going to benefit to me. They want me to improve and get better as the years go by. That's their job and they do a good job of it,” Trent said. “But I got a little smarter this year. After away games I would ride home with my mom, so I wouldn't have to hear it on the way home.”
Todd Hepner coached both JV and varsity basketball at Laurel Valley, coaching Joey, now 22, throughout his high school career, with Wayne as an assistant and Trent watching and learning from the sideline. He also coached the junior high team in Ligonier. Knowing his son would move up to the high school level this year, Hepner gladly took the position as head coach and brought his family along for the ride.
“It was a pretty easy decision,” Hepner said. “No matter if I was at Laurel Valley or Ligonier, we were always together doing these things. We tried to make it a family affair. We like basketball a lot. It's been a part of our family for many, many years.”
Together, this staff brought almost 50 years of coaching experience to the team. Wayne Hepner, who has coached basketball at various levels for more than 30 of those years, said he coached Todd and Joey when they played, and wanted to continue to be active with Trent.
At the other end of the spectrum, Hepner wanted to utilize the combination of Joey's youth as well as his experience with the Hepner family system of play.
“I enjoyed playing basketball when I was in school and I figured it would be the same kind of coaching and it would be a way to help out,” Joey Hepner said. “Four years ago I was actually in their shoes, so I think it was easy to relate to how they feel at certain times of the game. I remember certain situations I was in. I was hoping to help with in the games.”
Todd Hepner said having Wayne and Joey gives him two sets of eyes on the court, spotting things on the court that are causing mistakes or giving the other team the advantage. They see things that he could miss because his focus is on other matters in the game. By bringing these observations to his attention, the coach could make the necessary adjustments and get the team back on track.
Above all else, Hepner asserted that he saw having his family as a part of the team as a way to stay close to them, while being involved in the sport he loves — an endeavor that can be extremely time consuming.
“Coaching can be long days, and it makes it a little bit easier when you are still seeing your family,” Hepner said. “If you're working 15-, 16-, 17-hour days, you may not see your family at all. But the fact is, I get to coach my boys and see my dad, and my wife is there, and my mom comes to games, that really helps out a lot. Everything just fell into line, and those things make it easier to coach and focus on the things I want to focus on.”
The Hepner family extends appreciation the team for a fun season, all the parents who came out to support the team, assistant coach Mick Pompelia, who has been a volunteer assistant coach at Ligonier Valley for a number of years, and Kim Jones, the head of the Ligonier Valley Basketball Boosters for her hard work and dedication to the team.
Peter Turcik is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.