After many years sidelined by health challenges, middle schooler Kate O’Farrell wanted to play basketball this year. Just one problem: The Recreation Department didn’t have a coach for her team. Her big sister stepped up and, a few weeks of fun later, the seventh and eighth grade girls team had a championship title.
“I was so proud of her participating as it was a long journey for her after so many medical procedures,” says Clare O’Farrell, a 2018 graduate of Verona High School. “But they had no coach. So I decided to volunteer as I had played Suburban, Rec and a little at VHS.” To round out the coaching staff, she recruited her cousin, Sarah Yauch (VHS ’16) and fellow ’18 grad Julia Cambreleng, who had also played sports in high school.
The small team put a big effort into their play. In addition to Kate O’Farrell, the players included Molly Daggs, Josephine Garnet, Lori Hemple, Ylliona Hoxhaj, Maren McCabe, Devyn Quigley, Chloe Wynne and Isabella Zarfino. They dubbed themselves the Rats after the gray shirts they were assigned. The inter-Verona Rec department teams are part of the youth sports universe in Verona, along with the more competitive Suburban League that plays teams from other towns.
“The whole team improved their level of play,” says Clare O’Farrell, “but most importantly, we had fun. I am so proud of the spirit of camaraderie and sportsmanship our players embodied. Having women as role models was definitely key to our success.”