Sherri Campbell was used to making people’s jaws drop as a high school basketball player with her trademark behind-the-back dribble move and pinpoint passing, but this still caught her off-guard.
“A lot of the people at Mount Union just look at me like ‘what?'” Campbell said.
Campbell doesn’t think there’s anything unusual about what she does, but the fact still remains that there aren’t many women around coaching boys basketball. In fact, Campbell, who is working as Ryan Pastva’s assistant at Glendale, is the only one in the Mirror coverage area.
“I truly love coaching, and, as some point, I wanted to coach,” Campbell said of her reason to step across gender boundaries and coach varsity boys. “I can give back to the community and work with the kids. It’s a good thing.”
The Viking players, like senior Dakota Sinclair, seem to agree. He said, although some of the players weren’t sure what to expect with a woman as their coach, they adjusted quickly.
“She’s tough on us, but she does it in a positive manner,” Sinclair said. “She helps us a lot.”
Other than taking a few years off to have children, Campbell has been coaching some sport at some level almost every year since she graduated from college in 1996 – as Sherri Frisco, she was a basketball and softball standout at Glendale in the late 1980s and early 90s who helped the Lady Vikings reach the PIAA tournament in both sports and left the high school as its all-time leading scorer for girls or boys.
Campbell, who got a scholarship to play at California of Pa., returned to coaching at her alma mater when she took the helm of the boys elementary program a few years ago when her oldest son, David, was old enough to play four years ago. She still helps out with the little kids, but she decided to put her name in for the boys varsity position when it opened after the 2011-12 season.
Pastva, a teacher at Glendale, got the nod over Campbell, who then had to turn down the assistant’s job because her positions in the special education department at Altoona Area School District and as a professor in the graduate education department at St. Francis University would have her spreading her time too thin.
She’s since took a job at the Moshannon Valley School District, citing a desire to eventually coach again as one of the major reasons.
Although she was at one point his competition to become the Glendale boys coach, Pastva said he’s happy to have Campbell on board with him.
“We’re definitely opposite in our coaching styles, which is not a bad thing,” Pastva said. “I think it’s a good complement.”
In fact, sometimes at games, it can be hard to tell if Campbell is the head coach or the assistant. Very fiery and animated, Campbell sometimes has to be reminded to stay in her seat on the bench.
“It’s entertaining,” Sinclair said, laughing.
“At one game, she got up and slapped the bleachers,” Pastva recalled of one game. “I told her it bruised her whole arm.”
While she’s intense and admittedly ultra-competitive, Sinclair said Campbell is an encouraging and constructive coach.
“We were excited to have her as a coach, because we saw what she did with the elementary boys teams and how productive they were. We were excited to start working with her. They were really disciplined. They liked to run a lot. We thought maybe it would transfer,” Sinclair said. “She really helps us recognize the floor and to hustle.”
Campbell said she picked those things up from her one-time high school coach, Rick Stackhouse, and her father, Gary Frisco. But she added that it wasn’t always that way.
Campbell was the head basketball coach with the Penn Cambria girls for two years, compiling a record of 8-38. She also spent a year coaching the Glendale junior high girls. Campbell said those experiences were formative.
“When I started out coaching, I was not a good coach. I was very negative,” Campbell said. “After teaching for many, many years and being in administration, I changed my mentality. It’s about motivating students. It’s about being positive with them. When you accentuate the positive, you only get more.”
Because she’s a woman, there are a few minor details that have to be worked out at game time, like getting the all-clear signal from Pastva or the players before entering the locker room. Beyond that, Campbell said, there are no differences between coaching boys or girls.
“It’s all the same,” Campbell said. “It’s the game of basketball and the game of life. That’s what I always tell them: How you play the game of basketball is how you are going to play the game of life later on. And it’s about being a mentor.”
Campbell said she’d like to continue coaching, but being a head coach isn’t something she craves. It’s just being involved, enjoying the game and giving something back.
In that respect, Campbell is just one of the guys.
“My love of basketball is the same as when my dad taught me the game,” Campbell said.