Pat Birch is no stranger to the Boardman school system.
Birch is respected between classroom walls as much as he is between the marks at the athletic venues at Boardman High School. Due to that vast admiration the current social studies teacher and assistant football coach was named the new varsity boys basketball head coach last week. He will succeed Dan McKeown who had to step down due to personal scheduling issues.
Birch, who has also served as an assistant on the basketball staff the past few years, will call on that closeness with the Boardman community to help him carry out a dream of his.
"I'm familiar with my surroundings," said Birch a few moments before heading to football practice recently. "I know a lot of the kids personally. I've wanted this job for a long time. It's a great opportunity to teach kids."
When talking to Birch it doesn't take long to realize the passion he has for instructing young people. He feels as if he gets along great with teenagers because he is easily able to communicate with them. One way Birch does that is with tough guidance.
"Discipline is the biggest thing," said Birch sternly. "I like to instill discipline in the classroom so I will do the same thing on the court."
Saying you want your team to be discipline is one thing, but getting young kids to actually display that discipline on the floor is totally something else. This is a Spartan team that had single digit wins in 2011-2012 after all. In order to have the structure Birch covets his players to possess he will need to put an emphasis on stopping the opposing team from scoring points.
"Discipline starts with defense," Birch explained. "You need to play good, sound, hard defense if you are to succeed."
That sounds like a good foundation for winning basketball, but you can't hold the opposition to zero points every evening either so a team must also be able to put the ball in the basket. Coach Birch thinks he has the formula for his Spartans to do just that.
"I would like to run the ball through the post," said Birch. "Getting the ball inside opens things up from the outside. That's important in a tough league (like the Federal League)."
Boardman had it very tough in the Federal last season because, more often than not, those opportunities to score were invisible. The Spartans will need to work very hard during this preseason to make itself presentable against those Federal foes. It may sound like an enormous task, but the new bench boss believes that if he carries over some of the talent he has as a social studies teacher he will be able to conquer that quest.
"I will have to learn to accept some new challenges," Birch announced. "I will also have to be flexible and accept some change. I think that what works in class should be able to work on the court."