COLLINGSWOOD – By now, Nancy O’Neill has learned just about all the intricacies it takes to handle the dual role of coach and mother.
With current players Bobbi and Lulu O’Neill on the roster, Nancy is coaching her fourth and fifth daughters since taking over as the Collingswood High School girls basketball coach 25 years ago.
It’s a scenario that never seems to wear thin for the coach.
“I love it,” she said. “I think I’m lucky to be blessed to be able to still coach and have them there. If they were someplace else, I would miss them. So I love this opportunity.
“We have lots of rules in our house. I am coach here, but when we get home I have to be Mom because we can’t overlap it.”
Bobbi, a junior, and Lulu, a sophomore, grew up watching their sisters play. Their mom spoke about how they learned their skills watching their siblings in practice.
Now they not only play for the Collingswood team, but both figure to be big contributors on the squad throughout the season.
On Saturday, Bobbi scored a team-high 19 points and Lulu handled the role of point guard in leading the Panthers to a 38-31 win over Pennsauken in a non-league game.
The history of the O’Neill family dynamic goes back to when Ellie – a 2013 graduate -- was the first to come through the program. She ultimately became a 1,000-point scorer and Nancy says she set the template for what was to come.
“I think my oldest daughter taught us how to do it,” she said. “Her and I figured it out how we make it work. Ellie is person who is very patient and calm, and she would say to me, `Mom you can’t do that.’ We set boundaries with her.”
Next to follow were twins Megan and Molly, 2015 graduates. They helped pave the way for the current two sisters to prepare for their time as both players and daughters.
“Having three sisters ahead of them, they kind of learned the ropes,” Nancy said. “They’re very good about it. I think it’s been a family affair and I think they really look forward to playing in the program.”
Indeed, the girls says they enjoy the opportunity to play for their mother.
“I really like it because she knows who I am personally,” said Bobbi. “She knows how to make me work harder, but not get me upset because I’m an emotional person. So we work well together.”
Lulu also spoke about having a mother who is also her coach, and she sees nothing by positives.
“When I go home I can get two points of view on the game,” she said. “She’s really good at just separating it. Being my mom she can be more caring, `oh, you played well.’ But then when she’s my coach she can point out my flaws and make me better.”
En route to the victory on Saturday, the Panthers had to overcome a 21-point performance from Pennsauken’s Shayla Sweeney.
They limited Sweeney to only four points (her team’s total) in the fourth quarter, all from the foul line. That’s when Collingswood pulled away from a 27-27 tie at the end of three.
“We were working very hard to take away `35’ (Sweeney),” Bobbi O’Neill said. “She was a very, very good player. But I think when the guards started to understand what her game was, they got some steals.”
Bobbi and Sam Guresik each scored four points in the fourth quarter as the Panthers opened a comfortable lead.
They began the fourth quarter with a 8-1 run and then did a good job of taking time off the clock before the Indians ever had a chance to regroup.
Pennsauken 7 10 10 4 - 31
Collingswood 6 15 6 11 - 38
Pennsauken: Shayla Sweeney 21, Vivian Uricichea 5, Briasa Perry 2, Keturan Jones 2, Ariabella Guzman-Baker 1.
Collingswood: Bobbi O'Neill 19, Lulu O'Neill 1, Sam Guresik 4, Isha Kargbo 4, Molly Davison 6, Alexa Sherr 4.