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Going Into the Family Business: Coaching

February 2, 2012 By:
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Coach Steve Chadwin (left) with his son Jamie, also a coach

Why do some children follow in their parents' footsteps and others seek a totally different path?

James "Jamie" Chadwin, head men's basketball coach at Immaculata University in Chester County, hasn't thought much about that question.

Ever since Jamie Chadwin was a kid hanging out in the gymnasium at Abington Friends, he has tried to absorb everything he could about the game, and running a team, from his father.As long as he can remember, the 32-year-old wanted to coach hoops like his father. Steve Chadwin is now in his 33rd season at the Abington Friends School and has amassed more than 550 wins.

"One of the biggest things I have learned from him is that you have to treat each kid individually," said the father of twin girls. "If you do right by each kid individually, then you gotta have confidence that everything will come together collectively."

Coaching is a family business. Jamie's younger sister, Jessica, played Division I college lacrosse and coaches the girl's team at the Villa Maria Academy, an elite Catholic school in Chester County. Jamie Chadwin's wife, Rachel, played basketball for Denison University; his mother, Sherrea Chadwin, also coached and taught physical education before becoming an administrator at Germantown Academy.

Father and son enjoy a particular bond as head coaches in a high-exposure sport. In the height of basketball season, the two can't always get together in person, but they talk at least once a day, discussing the X's and O's of the game.

"We are both lucky that we speak the same language and have access to sounding boards that aren't our staffs," said Jamie Chadwin.

They also exchange thoughts on the myriad pressures that keep them each awake at night.

"I don't sleep very soundly. I am always thinking hoops," said the 66-year-old elder Chadwin, a Lansdale resident who grew up in Philadelphia and played for Germantown High School and East Tennessee State. "Being a basketball coach, you put so much into it. You want the best for your team. It's not necessarily for you. The team is an extension of your work ethic."

While much has been written about the Jewish obsession with baseball, historically, Jews have had a more profound impact on the distinctly urban sport of basketball -- as players, coaches, promoters and broadcasters. (Ironic considering that James Naismith invented the game to promote Christian values.)

"Basketball was an urban game and in the '20s, we were the ones in the urban areas. Early on, the Jews were the great players," said Jesse Rappaport, who coaches and teaches history at Harriton High School in Rosemont. He played under Chadwin and later served as his assistant coach.

Locally, the Philadelphia SPHAs (South Philadelphia Hebrew Association) fielded a professional team before the Philadelphia Warriors or 76ers existed. And Hughie Black, who co-founded that team in 1917, later started Pine Forest Camp in the Poconos, where the whole Chadwin family has worked for decades. Steve and Sherrea met there and their children each met their spouses there. This summer, father and son will launch a basketball mini-camp at PFC.

Though the family is not especially observant, both Steve and Jamie Chadwin expressed an appreciation for the Jewish connection to the game. Several of Steve Chadwin's former Jewish players, including Rappaport and Aron Cohen, coach area high school teams. And the younger Chadwin has recruited many Jews to assist him at the Catholic university. One assistant, Harrison Singer, coached the Philadelphia team in last summer's JCC Maccabi games.

In the team's third year, the school won the Colonial States Athletic Conference, and had a berth in the Division III NCAA tournament. While most college coaches are full time, Chadwin has had to balance his coaching duties with his job as a physical education teacher at Cheltenham High School. This year, his team has gotten off to a 5-12 start.Immaculata University has a rich women's basketball tradition that was depicted in the 2011 film The Mighty Macs. Men weren't admitted until a decade ago, and Chadwin, who worked as a student assistant to the men's team while an undergrad at University of Delaware, was hired as the first men's coach. He's now in his seventh season.

The elder Chadwin's year has been more successful: The Abington Friends' Roos are off to a 14-5 start, though it will be tough to make the playoffs in the competitive Friends league, in which nearly all teams heavily recruit players. Many of Chadwin's players have gone on to compete for Division I colleges.

Rappaport, who knows both father and son well, said there are similarities in their coaching styles, along with notable differences. "Jamie is a big X's and O's guy. He is definitely more a tactician," said Rappaport. "Steve Chadwin is more into the big picture and creating a family."

So, which coach is tougher on their players?

"We are similar," said Steve Chadwin. "When situations come up, we are going to address them. If a kid needs tough love, we're going to give it to them. If a kid needs an arm around them and a hug, that's what we'll do.

"You can't coach every kid the same. It's not possible."

 

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