Father-son duo forms backbone of Penn Hills volleyball program

Sunday, April 4, 2021 | 11:01 AM

Joe Mitlo has latched onto several integral roles this year on the Penn Hills boys volleyball team.

He is a 6-foot-2 middle hitter, senior team leader, team captain, student-athlete, team player, a teaching tool at times, plus he is the coach’s son.

“To be honest, I sometimes forget that I’m coached by my dad,” Mitlo said. “I’m treated like any other player on the team, and I get the same praise and criticism everyone else gets.

“I don’t get any special treatment, which I think is very respectable of my dad as a coach.”

Jay Mitlo has coached his son in volleyball for four years, including the 2019 pandemic-canceled season. Mitlo also is pastor of Faith Community Church.

“Coaching Joe is such a great gift and blessing,” Jay said. “He has been one of the most coachable players I’ve ever coached. Mind you, I didn’t say the best player, but rather the most coachable. He needs to be told something once, and he remembers it. He did not play a lot of sports growing up, so I was pleased that he took to the coaching of a team sport as he did.”

Joe Mitlo, who participated in Brazilian jiujitsu for seven years as a youth, is thrilled to be able to provide senior leadership this year, especially after the team missed his entire junior season due to covid-19 restrictions.

“As a team leader, my job is to show the others what a team player looks like and how the sport works,” he said. “I like to think I am an example of what hard work and dedication can get you.

“As a freshman, I was easily the worst player on the team. But after four years of work and practice, I am one of the team captains and starting on varsity.”

Jay Mitlo was asked what specifically are some of the positive aspects of coaching his son, along with any possible negative things (if there are any).

“The positives lie more in who he is and not in the fact that he is my son,” Jay said. “He is a great young man and teammate. That is the positive.

“The only negative is the mental energy it takes to make sure there is no appearance let alone reality of me treating him differently than the other players. That is only a minimal distraction as I don’t treat him differently, and if anything, hold him to a higher standard. He gets credit for understanding that and holding himself to an even higher standard than the one I set.”

Jay Mitlo has been in charge of the Penn Hills boys team since 2011. He also has led the girls team since 1997. He is a most familiar face in the Penn Hills community, which goes beyond his coaching career.

He competed in volleyball and golf in high school at Penn Hills. He was medalist on the golf team in his senior year, and was a member of the Indians’ WPIAL champion volleyball team in 1989.

Mitlo also has been the “voice of the Penn Hills Indians” since 2009, announcing both football and basketball games.

He discussed his basic coaching philosophy for high school volleyball.

“I have four years to have a positive impact on a young man or woman and teach them the sport of volleyball. If that’s all I focus on, I’ve missed a great opportunity,” he said. “Coaching volleyball gives me the blessing of being involved in the lives of young people when they, at times, need someone other than their parents who can help them become their best. I enjoy teaching about being a teammate, student and good person as much as volleyball.

“I have some of the best relationships today with people I coached years ago. One of them is my AD, Steph Strauss. She played here and stayed a part of the Penn Hills family. She came back to be our athletic director. I even officiated the marriage between her and her husband Aaron. I am so proud of many of our alumni. They are why I coach and the center of my coaching philosophy.”

Meanwhile, Joe Mitlo is looking forward to propelling the Indians to a “competitive” season in 2021. He and senior Logan Depew, a 5-10 outside hitter, are expected to be impact players as returning starters from 2019.

“We have the highest percentage of new players on the team this season,” Joe said. “I think if we put in the work and stay motivated, we could be a very competitive team.”

Mitlo, who turned 18 last month, also was a member of the Penn Hills boys golf team for three years.

He has a 4.286 GPA and plans to attend Pitt on a ROTC scholarship as a computer science major.

“While they don’t have an official men’s volleyball team (at Pitt),” Mitlo said, “they do have club ball which I plan to play.”

And he undoubtedly will take a well-coached and well-thought-out game plan with him.


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