YONKERS, N.Y. -- John Volpe has been coaching basketball for nearly 50 years at the high school, college and youth recreation level, but his veteran teaching skills seemed fresh and exciting to the summer basketball campers at Saunders Trades and Technical High School in Yonkers on Wednesday.
"Learning to play the game is about discipline at any stage," said Volpe, who won more than 500 games as coach at Gorton and Sacred Heart high schools in Yonkers during a 45-year high school career. "The kids have to look you in the eye and listen to what you're saying and apply it. I still enjoy being out there teaching the game."
Volpe, who retired two years ago after his stellar career, was pressed into summer service by his son J.R. Volpe, the girl’s basketball coach at Saunders. Joe Leone, a physical education teacher at Palisades Prep and a longtime AAU youth basketball coach with New Heights Basketball (Manhattan) joined the coaching crew.
"Kids don't come knowing the basic fundamentals, even as teenagers, which is where I do most of my coaching," Leone said. "We start by having them learn basic skills and what they are expected to do on the court. Work ethic is most important because any player can be better if he or she works hard."
Saunders graduates Katrina Feri and Jiordan Hurst joined Saunders junior basketball player Gabriela Faria as camp counselors for J.R. Volpe's camp.
"Young players can become good players if they do the work and listen to coaches like these," Hurst said. "You have to have some talent, but the discipline is most important."
Faria, who will be a starting interior player for the Blue Devils this winter, said team work comes with attention to detail.
"You can be a good player and not be a good team player," Faria said. "Young kids have to play a lot and develop their hands, left and right, and play for the team. Coaches do a lot to teach discipline."
J.R. Volpe, who learned from his father, who won several Section 1 (Westchester, Putnam, and Rockland) titles with Gorton, was glad to have his teacher mentoring his campers.
"My Dad still has enthusiasm for the game and he can still teach," Volpe said. "He's retired but he comes out to help with the kids. We just want them to learn basics and that you must work hard to succeed."