It is not uncommon for a man to coach a women's' basketball team.

In fact, out of the ten TIMES NEWS area girls' teams, nine are coached by men.

It is when one tries to think of a woman on a men's coaching staff that it becomes difficult to come up with a single example. However, thanks to Panther Valley boys' head coach Pat Crampsie asking former Tamaqua superstar Erika Barron to be a part of his staff, that task has become a lot easier.

Last year Barron led Susquehanna University in scoring at 13.7 points-per-game and was an All-Landmark Conference first-teamer. She had known Crampsie for quite some time before he approached her with a coaching opportunity before this season. Once some things fell into place, Barron accepted the offer and has been working with the Panthers since.

"I never thought my first coaching job would be with a boys' program, but I am very happy with the way things have worked out," admitted Barron. "I had to think about it for a few days. I had a few options out there with teaching and subbing, but then I got a position at Tamaqua and it all seemed to work out."

With the exception of one woman who helped out with a Tamaqua or Mahanoy Area junior high team a few years ago, Crampsie could not remember the last time he saw a women on a men's coaching staff. Anyone else would be hard pressed to think of one at any level of men's basketball.

The problem that could arise between a woman coach and a bunch of men players is the 'respect' factor. Some young men have the tendency to think that they already know everything and may not take to instruction well, especially from a woman. However, according to Crampsie, that has been far from the case.

"I was pretty confident that we wouldn't have any problems," said Crampsie. "I have a great group of kids and it has worked out exactly how I thought it would. They have responded to her very well. The fact that she is a woman hasn't even come up. I'd say her numbers kind of speak for themselves."

Barron said that she spent a lot of time around the Panthers' players before the start of the season and built a relationship with them. She believes that has gone a long way in making everything run smoothly.

"Pat has a great preseason regimen," said Barron. "I went to a bunch of the workouts and got to know the guys beforehand. I think that helped us build a good relationship. They have been very respectful so far.

"Pat has given me a lot of leeway with the guys. I get to work with the guards and I feel pretty comfortable. I have worked at a bunch of camps before so I had an idea of what it was going to be like. Plus, Pat is pretty serious when we get into practice and everyone knows it is time to work."

So what has been the biggest adjustment for Barron so far? It isn't the coaching or the instruction. As is the case with most athletes-turned-coaches, it is not being able to physically control the play on the court.

"I think that has been the biggest adjustment so far," said Barron, who is Tamaqua's all-time leading scorer with 2,317 points. "It's hard to only be able to say and direct things rather than doing it yourself. You have to have a lot of patience. It can be frustrating at times, but I have to remember these kids are only in high school.

"Like I said before, I thought I had an idea about coaching from running camps, but it is completely different at the high school level. Things need to be worked on at a much simpler level, but I am more than happy to help."

As of Monday, Panther Valley boasted a respectable 3-1 record. Whether it is because of Barron is anyone's guess. But as Crampsie put it, having someone of her stature on the staff sure can't hurt.

"It is great to have someone with four years of college basketball experience," Crampsie said. "She knows what she is talking about and is capable of adding things to our offense. She has been an outstanding addition to the coaching staff and I look forward to all the help she can provide in the future."

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TIGER TURNAROUND ... What a difference a year made for the Northwestern girls basketball team. The Tigers made a complete turnaround in the way they opened this season as compared to last season.A year ago, the Lady Tigers started the season 0-5. This season, Northwestern won its first five games, including a 3-0 start in the Colonial League, before falling to Bangor last Friday. Last year an 0-3 league record was part of their 0-5 beginning.

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TOURNEY TEAM ... Celeste Robinson continued her stellar early-season play earlier this week in the Lady Indian Holiday Classic.

Robinson led Jim Thorpe to the championship and in the process was named the tournament's Most Valuable Player.

Joining Robinson on the All-Tournament team was teammate Chelsea Smelas. Other members of the team were Northern Lehigh's Aimee Oertner and Tina Bastardi; and Palmerton's Kelsey Hay and Jade Farquhar.

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GETTING DEFENSIVE ... Two local basketball team's recently stepped up their defensive pressure for an entire quarter and blanked the opposition for a full eight minutes of play. Ironically, both teams did it on the same day.

In the Lady Indian Holiday Classic consolation game on Dec. 27, Palmerton shut down Lehighton in the fourth quarter and held the Indians to zero points. The Lady Bombers went on to win the game, 40-19.

The Marian boys' team did the same thing to North Schuylkill a little later in the evening. The Colts held the Spartans off the scoreboard in the fourth en route to a 48-31 victory.