Coaches Corner – Craig Taliani
Monday, June 5, 2017 | 8:14 PM
In this feature titled “Coaches Corner”, I will be interviewing a different coach every week and asking them questions about their personal life and about coaching. Hopefully their answers will not only shed some light on how they coach their respective teams, but also allow readers to get to know the men behind the fields/courts.
This week features head softball coach Craig Taliani of the Deer Lakes Lancers. Coach Taliani helped turn the softball program into a powerhouse, as they played in 4 straight WPIAL titles from 2012-2015. They captured gold in 2012 as well as 2015, and continued on to the PIAA State championship in 2015 in which they fell to Holy Redeemer. He has coached both of his daughters, Maria and Katrina, and he and his wife both work as teachers in the Deer Lakes school district. Let’s take a look inside Coach Taliani’s corner:
1. What are some of your pet peeves?
When performers try to personalize the National Anthem; Rt. 28 traffic
2. What was your favorite TV show growing up?
MASH & The Dukes of Hazard
3. Who do you look up to the most?
My dad Vince, who recently passed away
4. Who is your favorite sports player and why?
Mario Lemieux. He dominated as a player, overcame personal adversity, saved the Penguins, and became a Pittsburgher for life.
5. What is your favorite quote?
Don’t let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game
6. If you could take three things to a deserted island, what would they be?
My family (then it wouldn’t be deserted anymore), some ice- cold Cokes, and my fungo bat.
7. What is the most important thing you try to preach to your players every year?
Success in anything begins with being fundamentally sound. Do the basics the right way and the rest will follow.
8. Is it difficult to balance time as the head coach of softball at Deer Lakes, while you and your wife are also teachers there?
Very difficult. Anyone from a coaching family will tell you the amount of hours spent away from home are incredible. Add to that, demanding careers that require a large quantity of work to be done at home, and you have the makings of a conundrum. There aren’t enough words to describe the amount of support Lisa has given to the program and especially to me. She manages to keep up with all of her school work, be at every game, keep me from losing my mind, ,and makes sure we have a nice home to come back to at the end of the day. This time of the year is off the hook busy with final exams and playoff softball ,but somehow we keep it together.
9. What is your proudest moment as a high school softball coach?
There have been so many awesome moments, but the one that stands out the most was when we were lined up on the infield at PSU for the state championship game, hearing the Star Spangled Banner over the PA, and listening to our girls’ names being introduced. That was a big moment.
10. How did it feel to win your first WPIAL championship in 2012 after being head coach there for nearly 10 years?
Our emotions ranged from being incredibly proud, to a sense of relief that we had accomplished something that seemed so elusive, and even the surreal feeling of “did this really just happen”?
11. What was your most embarrassing moment as a high school softball coach?
Stumbling down the first base line after demonstrating how to lay down a perfect bunt. Pulled every muscle from my neck down.
12. Describe the feeling of making to 4 straight WPIAL title games, and also winning in 2015 after coming up short the two previous years.
Those were some great teams and each one had a little something unique about it. One thing was the same though and that was the confidence we had in our ability to win. In a couple of those years, the semifinal games were on my birthday, so the girls really made some extra special memories. It’s painful to lose any game, but to have lost twice was pretty disappointing, I’d be lying if I said otherwise. Winning in 2015 was as awesome as 2012, maybe more so because we knew just how difficult it was to get back to the championship game.
13. How did you decide you wanted to coach softball?
In 2003, I had an opportunity to return to Deer Lakes after having taught and coached baseball at Grove City for the previous 10 years. That fall, our AD Jan McDowell, said” we need a softball coach and your it.” So here I stand today. I started umpiring fastpitch when I was in college. My dad ran an umpire chapter and he got my brother and I into officiating and that’s where I learned the game. It was really in its infancy around western PA in the late 80’s. Jennifer Wolfe was a pitcher from Leechburg and I think she was the one who really opened everyone’s eyes to the game.
14. How much fun has it been to first coach your older daughter Maria, who was a key for the 2015 team that was PIAA runner-up, and now coaching your younger daughter Katrina?
I have been very blessed to be able to spend so much time with my daughters doing something we all love. Both girls are tremendously competitive and are not afraid to work hard. The 2015 WPIAL championship game will certainly go down as one of my proudest moments as a coach and a father. I had to force myself to focus on coaching the team when I really wanted to jump up and down after each of Maria’s 3 homeruns. I am equally proud of Katrina, a sophomore, who is also an outfielder. Katrina has picked up the slap hitting technique and is proving to be very effective at it. She is lightning quick and has excellent hand-eye coordination. She is also a great teammate who is always cheering and encouraging others. She has very strong leadership skills and I am really looking forward to watching her game develop over the next couple of seasons.
15. How important has your family been throughout your coaching career?
On a scale of one to ten, 10 being incredibly important, they’re an 11. Just after I started coaching softball, the baseball job opened up at DL. Having played and coached baseball for several years, I was interested in taking the position, especially at my Alma Mata. Lisa and I talked about it and she said that she felt that I should stay with softball because as she put it – girls deserve good coaches, too.’ Since I had two young daughters at the time, it made perfect sense. My daughters have been very supportive, too. I’m sure it hasn’t been easy having parents who are teachers and coaches in your high school. The thought has crossed my mind that they may actually get tired of seeing me so much. But I can’t confirm that My dad and brother have also been a major support team for me. We would break down games, literally pitch by pitch, and review player performances, opposing team’s strengths, and where we need to make improvements. For me, managing this program has really become a family affair.