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  Coaches Proudly Remember Their Dads On Father’s Day  
  June 18, 2020 Edition  
      Boardman News Sports
      The Boardman Spartans and Cardinal Mooney Cardinals each have storied athletic histories.
      Both schools have hired coaches who are passionate about the sports they oversee, care undyingly about their players and programs while remaining excellent motivators and teachers of the game as they impart life’s lessons that their players can use when they have families of their own.
      In turn, those student-athletes show their appreciation by staying in contact with their mentors long after graduation.
      With Father’s Day coming up on June 21, coaches at both schools agree that their father’s have had a tremendous impact on their growth and development, often sharing lessons that they learned from their dads with their sons and daughters as a parent today.
      BHS boys head basketball coach Pat Birch guided his Spartans’ hoops squad to a 22-2 overall mark this past season. They went 20-4 in 2018-19 and are 42-6 over the past two seasons and unbeaten, 18-0, over the last two seasons with two consecutive All-American Conference Red Tier titles during that span.
      His father, Paul “Rick” Birch, is the operations manager for K-Mart Distribution Center.
      At age 64, he never misses a game and his son is arguably his father’s biggest fan.
      “Sports have always tied me and my dad together. My love for competition and passion for sports comes from him,” Birch said. “He is a diehard Cleveland and Ohio State University fan who always had me with him watching and learning. From a very young age I remember attending sporting events together, especially Ohio State football games.
      “Those memories will stay with me forever. Even better than attending games with my dad was him teaching me different sports in the backyard and coaching my various teams while growing up. I learned early on that you must compete hard but compete the right way.
      “There is etiquette with sports that should always be followed. You should work and compete as hard as you can but always be respectful of your teammates, opponents and especially your coaches. I’ll never forget when my dad ‘benched’ me during a YMCA basketball game.
      “I was pouting about playing time and when he told me something, I simply didn’t want to hear it. I talked back, which resulted in me having to go sit by my mom in the stands. It was a teaching moment that I will never forget.”
      There were other teaching moments that Birch’s father taught him, lessons that he still uses today.
      “Another important moment for me came while I was in elementary school,” he added. “I wanted to be a ball boy for the varsity basketball team but wanted my dad to ask the coach on my behalf. Instead, he made me approach the varsity basketball coach, shake his hand and ask him myself. It’s a lesson I find invaluable today.
      “Outside of the passion and respect for sports, my dad taught me that there is a right and wrong way to do things. You may not always get it right at first but your intention should be to try and do the right thing, that you should always carry yourself properly, that you should always look people in the eye and respect what they have to say.
      “I think more than anything else, I have tried to carry those lessons with me as a coach. I don’t always get it right but I always have the right intentions, especially when it comes to working with student-athletes. Part of my coaching philosophy has been to ‘do the right thing by kids and people and things will work themselves out,’ a philosophy that was shaped by my father.
      “As a father of two, I am now trying to instill the same passion, respect and approach to sports with my children. It has only been in the last few years, as my son has started organized sports, that I truly appreciate everything my dad did for me.”
      Spartans’ head football coach Joe Ignazio is a tireless worker, has his BHS football program pointed in the right direction and calls his father, Joe, Sr., who is 69, his hero.
      “My dad is my hero. I am fortunate enough to have him stand on the sidelines when I coach,” Ignazio stated. “I always say that everything I do is to present a great role model for my own children, but also to let my parents know that I am doing right by them. I have always wanted to make them proud.
      “When I think of my dad, I always think of him as a family man. He is a grinder who has always provided for his family. He went from being a Boardman fireman to a self-employed insurance salesman. He has an unbelievable sense of humor, is someone that has been very involved in the community and believes in service above self.
      “We have always shared a love for sports and still play golf and bocce together. I am 45 years-old and without hesitation, I still walk over to him and the first I do is give him a kiss. I feel very blessed to have that type of relationship with my dad. Happy Father’s Day to him and the rest of the dads out there.”
      Cardinals’ head football coach, P.J. Fecko, and several members of his staff shared their thoughts on their fathers and why they were so influential in their upbringing.
      “I am very blessed to have the father I have. He has and continues to be a big part of my life every single day,” Fecko said of his father, Pat, who is a retired lumberyard owner. “My father has taught me so much over the years, both verbally and by example. He’s been a huge support during my athletic and coaching careers.
      “He never missed a game while I was growing up and never missed a game while I was an assistant coach. He has never missed a game for the past 20 years while I have been the head coach, either. My father has been nothing but supportive and engaged in everything that I’ve done so to him I say, Happy Father’s Day, Pat.”
      Fecko’s offensive line coach, Mike Latessa, said his father, Joseph Latessa, Jr., a musician by trade who goes by ‘Little Joe’ when performing, helped mold his athletic career.
      “My love for the game of football came from my father. He is a huge fan and played the game in both high school and college,” Latessa added. “He passed his knowledge and passion for the game on to me as a child and eventually, as a player and coach. Every time I left the house on game day, he would play the fight song on the piano as I walked out the door. Now that he’s 83, I take every chance I get to hear him play those fight songs.”
      Another Fecko assistant, Greg Giannios, has seen the Boardman-Cardinal Mooney rivalry from both sides of the field.
      “My father, also Greg, was a 1971 graduate of Boardman High School where he excelled in sports, especially football,” said Giannios of his dad, who is the owner of Giannios Candy Company in Boardman. “One day when I was little, my grandma showed me his scrapbook and ever since that day I always wanted to play football and be just like my father.
      “My dad has always been there for me. From Little League, where he is an umpire who was selected to work the Little League World Series in 1998, all the way through high school and then when I played at YSU, he traveled to every game. Now that I am a coach, he still goes to games and we always give each other the thumbs up, which started ever since I was little kid.
      “Now that I have a son of my own, I hope that I can be the father to him like my father has been to me. I hope my son will look up to me as I did of my dad so Happy Father’s Day, Dad. I love you.”
      CMHS linebacker coach, Jim McGlone, called his late father, Joseph (1929-2002), who was the national sales manager for Plakie Toys, his hero.
      “The one word that comes to mind in describing my dad is hero,” McGlone noted. “The father of seven, he had few passions, his faith, his family, the Cleveland Browns and Cardinal Mooney High School. It wasn’t until a particularly tough double session my senior year that I found out Pops played semi-pro football
      “He was a humble, quiet man who is missed daily by so many.”
      Cardinal Mooney Cardinals’ boys’ basketball coach, Carey Palermo, had the opportunity as a youngster to watch his father, Joe – who is 73, a U.S. Army veteran and retired from the City of Youngstown where he served as chief enforcement officer of its building department – play fast-pitch and slo-pitch softball while learning from his father the finer points of life and sports.
      “My father always pushed me to be the best I could be,” Palermo noted. “He never allowed me to make excuses or place blame for failure on somebody or something else and I appreciate that lesson today more than ever. He is my biggest critic but also my biggest fan and supporter.
      “I would not want it any other way. He has a way with words, like no other and I appreciate all that he and my mom have done for me over the years.”
      Joe Gabriel serves as Boardman High’s head baseball coach, stating his father, Joe, Jr., always did his best to make things better for his family.
      “My father is a retired police officer and growing up, he worked a ton and worked nights. He did a lot of side jobs as a cop to keep money coming in,” Gabriel said. “My father has always been there for me and showed me exactly how to love a son.
      “He always made me feel comfortable to tell him anything, even if I knew he would not agree with something I did or a choice that I made. When I went away to college, he would always make trips up to school and take me to dinner and the bookstore for some clothes.
      “As a police officer, he introduced me to the ‘real world’ at an early age. That introduction at such an early age has truly helped me as I have gone through life and it helps me more and more every single day. My father has always been there for me my entire life, through good and bad and still is.”
      Cardinals head girls’ basketball coach, Jason Baker, credits his father, Wayne, 65, a painter by trade, for instilling in him a love of sports.
      “I loved sports from a very young age and my father helped me see exactly how important sports can be,” he noted. “I can remember my dad picking me up at lunch from school, then going to Cleveland to watch an Indians afternoon baseball game.
      “My dad would always have a catch with me. As I got older and became a first baseman, I would wait for him to come home and beg him to throw balls to me in the dirt, as hard as he could so that I could scoop them up.
      “Growing up near Columbus, Ohio State Buckeyes football games were extremely important to our families and that is something that still exists today. Without the exposure to sports as a young kid, I would not have been interested in athletics in high school or college and wouldn’t be coaching today.”
      BHS head boys’ soccer coach, Eric Simione, guided his Spartans team to a 10-7-1 overall mark last season, posting back-to-back 10-win campaigns for the first time in 21 years.
      His father, Joe, 71, served in the U.S. Navy (1966-70) as an electrician on a troop transport ship during the Vietnam War and later worked 38 years for Ohio Bell-Ameritech.
      “Without going into too much detail, my father had what we would consider a hard childhood. He was the oldest of five children and lost his father about a week before his 11th birthday,” Simione added. “From there, let’s just say things got worse but, in retrospect, I think that life experience is what shaped his views on family and why he worked so hard to provide the best opportunities for me as well as my brother and two sisters.
      “Certainly, he was involved in many of our activities but always in an appropriate manner. Even when he coached us in soccer, he would never treat us differently than the rest of the team and while he coached each of us, he let others do it as well. Today, I feel that was a lesson I didn’t realize I was being taught at the time. Fathers coaching their sons can be a great bonding experience but you probably shouldn’t be the only coach your son ever has. Being afforded the opportunity to receive other perspectives and styles is important.
      “My father still comes to almost every game and his advice is the only one I take without a grain of salt because he’s the only one giving it who doesn’t have an agenda . I think my brother and sisters would agree that no story about my father is complete without music.,
      “He named each of us after singers – for the record, I am named after Eric Burdon and not Eric Clapton – and throughout our childhood introduced us to all the great stuff, playing songs and telling stories then randomly quizzing us afterwards.
      “Of course, the most important lesson was knowing to never touch his records. I could have robbed a bank and led the police on a high-speed chase across three states and gotten in less trouble than if I had touched my dad’s records.”
      From the Boardman News staff to all fathers in our reading audience, a very “Happy Father’s Day” to everyone with many, many more yet to come.
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