Written by Rick Waldron
I have long maintained public school athletic programs are often held hostage to the talent the school bus brings to the schoolhouse door. I need to amend that to include “what the moving van brings as well.”
When girl’s coach Denny Meyer and wife moved into the Lake district with their basketball brood, the stage was set for a resurgence in success on Lemoyne. It came beyond almost everyone’s expectations.
The Lady Flyers are now 20-0 after soundly defeating Elmwood in a make-up game. First league championship for the distaff side since a 1979 NLL crown. First ever in the SLL. And the tourney trail begins next week, all roads leading to Columbus. Oh, by the way, the Lake jayvee squad also won the SLL.
Coach Meyer’s basketball coaching ability had led him on an amazing journey. From Little League baseball and eighth grade girls hoops at Genoa…to Phoenix Arizona, where he built and coached a girls AAU team to four consecutive state championships…back to Ottawa County a few years ago. After being an assistant in the girls program at Oak Harbor he was offered the opportunity to take the reins of the Lake girls program. With a phenomenal first year under his belt, the future is so bright it’s time to break out the sunglasses.
The “family affair” is at once figurative and literal. Meyer says the “family” known as the girl’s basketball program has been as much fun to work with as any team he has coached. Words and phrases such as “great bunch to coach, work well together, love to stress defense” roll off his tongue quickly when asked what made this edition of Lake girls’ hoops historic.
“This team has created a true family atmosphere,” the coach concludes.
When it comes to “team as family” one can only conclude that the example put forth from Casa de Meyer is the template for success. In a chicken or egg first scenario…the coach wonders if the coaching girls instead of boys decision was driven by the fact he was raising three athletically-inclined daughters. He did coach boys programs for a short while but quickly switched to the female side as his girls began to grow and mature.
Meyer is quick to thank Athletic Director Dave Shaffer and other Lake cognoscenti for allowing him to hire the entire coaching staff, from varsity assistant down to the feeder programs in the fifth and sixth grades. His eldest daughter, Michelle, is the jayvee coach. Next in line is recent high school grad Stephanie. Steph lettered in hoops at Genoa and Oak Harbor. Youngest daughter, Kimberly is a sophomore starter for her father at point guard and typically draws the assignment to shut down the opponent’s top scorer. In the SLL-clinching victory over Genoa, Kimberly and company put the clamps of BGSU-bound Simone` Eli, holding her scoreless after the first eight and a half minutes of the game. Meyer enjoys the interaction at home between coach, jayvee coach, and varsity player. He said they have always enjoyed dissecting the games and practices in the car, on the bus, around the kitchen table. He said, “As a family we know and trust each other explicitly.” Wife Sharon didn’t play basketball but has become a strategic expert by osmosis.
With the annual state tournament underway, Meyer was reminded how difficult it is to beat the same team, regardless of sport or level of play, three times in one season. With two SLL wins over two-time defending champ Genoa, has Meyer given a thought to a third meeting on down the line?
“Hardly,” he replied, “we have the toughest district draw in the state. We have number five Liberty Benton and number seven Riverdale. We are ranked six, so there can’t be another district with three of the top seven schools in the state.”
Coach Meyer has done enough homework to know, surviving the tough district, they could face the Lady Comets a third time in the regionals, one step from Columbus and the state Final Four.
That said, the veteran, successful coach is guiding his family along the way…one step at a time. With the whole world watching.
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