Barnstable coach Ross Jatkola’s football season ends, just in time for girls hoops

HYANNIS — Ross Jatkola didn’t get much of a cooldown period after football season ended. His first year as Barnstable’s head football coach ended with the Red Raiders’ annual Thanksgiving game against Falmouth, and then three days later Jatkola was back in the gymnasium to kick off preseason for girls basketball.

“It was a quick turnaround,” Jatkola said. “This is exciting, to be out here and getting to know them and seeing them more as players.”

Jatkola was named the head football coach back in April, and two months later he took over the girls basketball team as well. He played basketball at Dennis-Yarmouth and coached both sports along with track at Cheshire Academy in Connecticut, his last job before returning to Cape Cod.

“As much as it’s sad to see the football season end, it’s a great change of pace to get my mind off that for a couple months and change gears into this,” Jatkola said. “My ideal style is man-press (defense) the whole game, score and play high-intensity. You know I like to play with energy, and I do the same with basketball.”

Football took up most of Jatkola’s attention during the fall, but he was able to devote himself to both sports over the summer. He’d often run one weight-room session for the football team, then just stick around after and wait for his basketball players to arrive before his boys returned later in the afternoon.

That made for some long days, but since he was first introduced Jatkola has stressed the importance of offseason strength training.

“I made sure even before school was out last year that I met with the girls, gave them an expectations list, what I wanted them to do over the summer,” Jatkola said.

Jatkola will coach a relatively young roster this season, but senior center Carly Whiteside has been part of the program since the eighth grade. Whiteside signed with Division I University of Vermont in the fall and enters the winter 54 points shy of 1,000 for her career.

“At first it’s hard to get used to a new style, a new way of playing, because everyone coaches differently,” said Whiteside, who along with Kiara Niero were the only seniors in tryouts. “But with time, we adjust.”

Jatkola often focused on little things in football practice such as how players wore their uniforms or lined up for drills. He’d tell his players that paying attention to details bred a championship mentality.

The style resulted in the team’s first league title and winning record since 2013. Jatkola hopes what worked in football will also work in basketball.

“After the cuts are made, then I’ll really start becoming a stickler like we were in football,” Jatkola said. “I think that’s what they deserve, is to get treated the same. Even today when we were doing our suicide (sprints), ‘Hey, get off the line, back up.’”

Along with that exacting mentality came an obvious passion and enthusiasm for coaching and the sport, one that got his players to quickly buy into his system.

Whiteside didn’t get to experience much of that over the summer, her AAU games with the Cape Cod Bulls keeping her from attending most of the weight-room sessions. But that changed once the winter preseason began.

“He’s awesome,” Whiteside said. “He’s really enthusiastic, and his excitement about the season kind of rubs off on us too, so we’re looking forward to it.”

Barnstable has had success in girls basketball in the past. The Red Raiders won or tied for the Old Colony League championship five times in nine seasons from 2005-2013 and made the postseason as recently as 2016.

But head coaches have come and gone more quickly than many of the players. Jatkola is the fourth head coach in as many years, with Caz Malec (2017-18) and Jared Pane (2016-17) each helming the team for just one season.

No coach has stuck around for longer than three seasons since Nancy Freeman ran the team from 2001-2010.

“The biggest challenge maybe for them is just transitioning to a new coach,” Jatkola said. “Football-wise, you don’t ever want to make your kids fit your system. You want to coach to your kids, so I’m trying to learn what they can do.”