For West Chester Henderson’s Greta Neff, the 2017-18 Daily Local News All-Area Girls Basketball Coach of the Year, what made the Warriors’ memorable season most special was the unselfishness of her players.
“This year’s team was all about ‘team’ — they truly bought into each other, and put the needs of the team first,” said Neff. “I think you can see and hear that in the way that they speak about their experiences … which is one of the coolest things ever.”
Neff knows about the importance of sharing, having played point guard (basketball) and setter (volleyball) for West Chester University.
“Those are two positions that essentially run the team on the court,” said Neff. “I think from the time I stepped on the court at WCU I knew that I was a coach who was playing sports, and I was very lucky to have coaches (Deirdre Kane, Sharon Bonaventure) who allowed me to take the leadership roles that I did.”
A few months after graduating from West Chester University in 2004, Neff was hired as assistant girls’ basketball coach at Downingtown West High School by Dave Johnson.
“This was an amazing opportunity to work with Dave for 10 years,” said Neff, who has served as a physical education teacher in the Downingtown School District for more than a decade. “I learned so much about coaching in that time frame.”
Fourteen years ago, West Chester Henderson athletic director Ken McCormick hired Neff to be the Warriors’ girls volleyball head coach. In 2014, McCormick hired Neff to be the Henderson girls’ basketball head coach as well.
McCormick said, “She (Neff) has brought a passion for basketball and she cares for the girls. She has all the qualities we want in a great coach and she’s been exceptional across the board with all our girls. And she brought in a great staff and she’s done a great job.”
“She’s really an awesome coach,” said Henderson’s Abbey Shea. “She stresses the fundamentals and that’s what’s gotten us this far. As freshmen, she got us to move our feet on defense, work on layups, do everything right and now [the basketball program is] built up.”
Neff said, “Our coaching staff, Katie Armstrong, Amy Buda, Whitney Sharp and Kayla Feairheller, have been amazing at offering different perspectives throughout games and practices. Their honesty, constant evaluation and feedback has been so helpful and has helped to balance me. We also have a great dynamic as a group which helps to keep the atmosphere fun and light for all involved.”
It’s been said that coaching is teaching, and Neff was asked what has been the most important things she has learned in a decade of teaching high school youths.
“The most important thing to me is having perspective,” said Neff. “Realizing that what these kids are going through is tough for them, in this time, in their lives. Also, being aware of their needs and how to help them to figure out ways to become successful, confident members of society. The biggest reward for me is seeing these kids come back year after year with jobs, families, and smiles.”
Neff, who graduated from Red Lion High School in 1999, also credits her parents with her development as a coach. Her father, Sam Neff, was a quarterback for the University of Delaware (1968-1971) and is in his 46th year of teaching at Red Lion (math and computers). Her mother, Peggy Neff, coached volleyball at Dallastown and Red Lion from 1972-1975.
“Growing up, my Dad and I spent countless hours in the gym, playing and watching volleyball and basketball – it was our thing,” said Neff. “On Saturday nights, we would find a game and go. I learned about coaching from both of my parents. My Dad has always been a basics guy. Keep it simple, and do the simple things well, that makes you tough to beat. My Mom has always provided the more mental side – do the right thing for the kids, keep the big picture in mind and treat them with respect. They both have taught me the value of confidence and competitiveness, and how [those qualities] should drive you to always work harder.”