New Shaler coach deals with the growing pains
Chris Siegle doesn't have pictures in the Shaler office from his playing days, even though the former Titans quarterback is one of its most accomplished alums.
“I don't want to self-promote and tell you what I've done to the point of gloating,” said Siegle, 32, who returned to coach his alma mater this year.
“I think it's helped me. I am what a Shaler kid is, being able to go to college and play arena football. I've been able to take advantage of what the community provided for me.”
After playing at Cincinnati and West Virginia Tech, the Raleigh Rebels of the Arena 2 league, and coaching at West Virginia Tech, Florida International, Hampton and Milford Academy, Siegle is one of 26 new head football coaches in the WPIAL.
He replaces Neil Gordon, who resigned in January after going 27-15 with three playoff appearances in four seasons at Shaler.
Not only did the Titans lose Pitt tight end recruit J.P. Holtz, starting quarterback Ryan Mincher and top receiver Alex Conway to graduation, but they also saw leading rusher Niko Thorpe transfer to Central Catholic, which opens at Shaler at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
“It's a good opportunity to build a program in the community,” Siegle said. “Our kids are evolving with what we're trying to do with offense and defense. We're going to go through some growing pains because we're playing some young kids. We only have one starter back on each side of the ball, so we're a young, young football team.”
Siegle plans to use his learning experience to teach the Titans fundamentals of the game, from understanding offensive concepts to diagramming defenses.
That was one of the biggest things he learned while coaching in college and at a prep school: that many players didn't understand the schemes on the chalkboard.
“There's a big learning curve right now,” Siegle said. “It seems like they've never really been taught how to draw something on the board, or terminology.”
Siegle wants to instill in Shaler a hard-working mentality that will help his young team in years to come.
“To look at the demographics of your district, you realize we're a middle-class district that hangs our hat on being blue collar,” Siegle said.
The biggest transition for Siegle is going from dealing with young adults at Milford Academy and in college to teenagers at Shaler.
“It's helped me to be able to see what their goals are at certain points of their life,” he said. “That's helped me with our kids because it's not a winning thing; it's a growth and development thing.”
Siegle also is starting to recognize the age gap between himself and his players, as some of the freshmen are sons of his friends from high school.
“I asked one of the starting receivers how old he was and he said, ‘I was born in 1996.' I said, ‘Oh my God, I was playing freshman football,' ” Siegle said. “That aspect has been very, very humbling.”
Kevin Gorman is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-320-7812.