The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

February 24, 2013

Person of the Week: Career volunteer: Woman coaches girls for 3 decades

Frank Sojak

— Lori Stiles enjoys watching girls grow up to be leaders.

She observes that accomplishment while coaching them in two Conemaugh Valley area sports leagues.

Currently, she is coaching a tournament team in the Shirley Clawson Youth Basketball League.

During the summer, she volunteers as a coach for a Ponytail team in the Conemaugh Valley Youth League.

Stiles started coaching in both leagues when she was 19 years of age.

“After nearly three decades, it’s hard to say why I started coaching,” Stiles said. “But I have learned over the years that organized sports develops confidence, responsibility and leadership skills in the girls.

“After all the years, I can’t imagine my life without coaching.”

She said one of the coaches in the basketball league, Heather Rygel, had played softball for her.

“Now we coach Heather’s daughter in basketball, said Stiles, a resident of East Conemaugh Borough.

Another former softball player for Stiles, Melissa Toth, is the manager for the Ponytail team of which Stiles is associated.

“We coach Melissa’s daughter and my niece together on a team,” she said.

Stiles said it’s enjoyable to see girls progress in each league.

“It’s very fulfilling to see where they started and where they are when they progress to the next level,” she said.

Stiles also works with the basketball players outside the Shirley Clawson league. She regularly takes them to play against teams in other leagues in the area.

Both leagues receive plenty of support from the community.

“I can’t say enough about all the sponsors for the Shirley Clawson and Conemaugh Valley youth leagues,” Stiles said. “Without them, we wouldn’t have youth leagues.

“Our small community does a great job of supporting the youth leagues, and it is truly appreciated.”

For donating her time to work with the basketball and softball players, Stiles is the Person of the Week.

Heather Andrews, a friend of Stiles and a former softball coach, said Stiles has coached three of her four sisters in softball.

“She really goes above and beyond what a coach normally would do,” Andrews said. “She is so patient and kind.”

If the girls need a little extra help, Stiles works with them after practice, she said.

“The biggest thing about her is that she does not have any children, yet she offers her coaching services to all of these children.

“She molds them into fine young women with athletic skills,” Andrews said.

Holly Glass, who coaches in the basketball league, said she had Stiles as a coach when she played in the basketball league.

“She is an excellent coach,” Glass said. “She is not just a coach. She makes each and every player a part of her family.

“She not only teaches the game of basketball, but she teaches real-life lessons.”

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