St. Joe’s basketball coach learning on the job

When Francesco Malfitano took the head coaching job for the senior basketball team at an all-girls high school, he admittedly didn’t know much about the sport. 

Inheriting a program trying to restore its basketball reputation, Malfitano had his work cut out for him in making the St. Joseph’s Bears a contender for the first time in decades.

Despite the challenges ahead, the new coach took the opportunity to be a part of something special.

“I just kind of fell into basketball when there was an opening at the coaching position,” said Malfitano in a St. Joseph’s conference room. “I was a soccer guy, I had always played soccer.

“[Basketball] really grew on me though, that’s for sure.”

After countless hours of studying the game, Malfitano was ready to guide the girls of St. Joseph’s on the hardwood. The coach now undoubtedly knows his basketball.

Within two years of taking the position he steered the Bears to an appearance in the Toronto District Catholic Athletic Association (TDCAA) finals last year.

Despite coming up short in the city championship game, St. Joseph’s basketball has improved by leaps and bounds in a short period of time.

“There was a big increase in the program with that, [the girls] came a long way,” said the Bears coach. “The team worked very hard, trained before and after school and sacrificed a lot of their social life.”

Not only working to develop his team’s skills on the court, Malfitano also strives to help his players be at their best within the community and in the classroom.

“I think the thing about sports is that you learn a lot about life,” said the coach. “It helps you believe in yourself, especially when the odds are against you.”

In order to be a part of the basketball program at St. Joe’s it is imperative that students conduct themselves appropriately.

Maintaining good grades, having a strong attendance record and acting with respect towards others are a must when seeking the privilege to don the blue and gold Bears uniform.

At times a homework club is organized to help players get together and keep up with their studies, coincidentally bettering the team in the gym as well.

“If a team can do work together, it can play together,” said Malfitano. “It’s a good team bonding thing too, working on their homework.”

While doing his utmost to help the players on his squad become well-rounded young ladies, coach Malfitano has also benefitted from a lot of personal growth thanks to his position with the team.

“When you start coaching at any level you start seeing things differently, you start knowing a lot about yourself,” the coach told the Toronto Observer. “You gain self-esteem, you gain confidence and the better the team does; you feel better about yourself.”

With the Bears looking to have another strong season, supplemented with tournaments throughout the year to polish its skills, the head coach has the TDCAA finals in mind as a goal for this year’s team.

“We’ve got to get back there,” Malfitano said.

“And this time, take it.”