This is a printer-friendly version of an article from Zip06.com.Article Published December 19, 2019
Jaimie Toto has always wanted to develop a basketball program of her own, and she’s going to fulfill that wish at Valley Regional this winter. This week, Jaimie will begin her first season as head coach of the Warriors’ girls’ basketball team. Jaimie, who teaches business classes at Valley, brings a solid résumé that’s full of basketball experience to the Warriors.
Jaimie is excited to start the season, and she can already see her team meshing together. While Valley doesn’t have a ton of veterans on its roster, Jaimie believes that will simply give her up-and-coming athletes plenty of room to grow.
“We don’t have any seniors, and I’m excited about that. I have a good group of juniors leading that pack, and I have them for two years,” says Jaimie. “I’ve seen them through summer league and fall league, but we had a lot of girls playing fall sports. What I’m seeing is that they have bought in to what I’ve brought in. The effort and hustle are there, and that’s the hardest thing to teach.”
Jaimie feels that quickness will be Valley’s biggest asset this season. She’s been developing a game-plan to help the Warriors use that to their advantage.
“We’re faster than a lot of teams we play. We don’t have a lot of height, but we have speed. That will be one of our strengths this year,” Jaimie says. “I really want to play the 10 main girls I have a lot. I’m a fast-paced coach, and we’ll play a lot of man defense with pressing. We want to get turnovers into transition baskets. I want them to go all-out as hard as they can for five minutes.”
Jaimie wants to Warriors to pick up some new tricks on both sides of the ball. Jaimie thinks that Valley’s success will be predicated on its defense, which will, in turn, lead to opportunities on offense.
“We’re teaching them how to press, because they haven’t really pressed in the past. We’ll play some zone. We’ll play some man. They’ve only really played 2-3 zone on defense, but we’ll mix it up, too,” Jaimie says. “If we can’t defend man and learn those basic principles now, then we’ll never be able to go there during the season.”
Jaimie has plenty of on-court experience to pull from as a coach. Jaimie saw success while competing for Brookfield High School and carried that into her collegiate career at Springfield College in Massachusetts.
“I grew up in Brookfield and graduated from Brookfield High School in 2011. My junior year we played at Mohegan Sun for the state championship, but lost. Then my senior year, we lost a good amount of players. We made it pretty far, but not as far,” says Jaimie, who lives in Milford. “After that, I played in Springfield College. In my time there, we moved the program from a 4-20 year to conference championships in my junior and senior years.”
Jaimie played forward throughout most of her career, but that didn’t mean that she just posted up. Jaimie had a variety of skills at her disposal, and she hopes that she can help teach them to her athletes at Valley.
“I was more of a stretch forward. I was always more of a shooter. I was taller, so at first, I was down low,” Jaimie says. “Then at college, my coach encouraged me to step out and shoot, and I pulled the defense out. Also, I was quicker than a lot of bigger girls at my position.”
Jaimie started her coaching career at Foran High School in Milford as the Lions’ JV coach. Jaimie wants to bring some of the philosophies that she developed at Foran to her new team at Valley Regional.
“After my first year as a coach, there were about 25 freshmen that came out at the beginning of the second season. We asked why so many girls came out, and they said that they heard how fun and positive we were and how hard we worked,” says Jaimie. “Head Coach Bob Asmussen and I got the program to move from a 4-16 to 14-8 record last year. We really built up that culture. That is something that I’m really proud of, and it’s something that I hope to bring to Valley.”
Jaimie knows that her role as a head coach and a teacher at Valley allows her to help student-athletes have a fulfilling high school career both on and off the court.
“I’m a very sports-minded person, but I love to support these girls in anything that they have going on. Some of them are in band and others do plays,” Jaimie says. “I think being in and around the school during the day has benefited me in getting to know the girls. That means I get to care about them as more than just basketball players. I love to be around the school and help wherever needed.”
Athletic Director Jeff Swan is happy to have Jaimie on board with the Warriors. Swan believes that it’s always a bonus when a coach is on school grounds during the day. Swan feels that Jaimie’s constant presence can only benefit Valley’s athletes.
“We’re very fortunate to have Coach Toto. When we found out about her background and being a teacher here on staff, we were very excited to go forward with her as head coach,” says Swan. “She’s a good motivator and the kids love her. They like her in class, and she’s been a popular teacher here. We’re very fortunate to have her as a part of this program.”
The Warriors are kicking off their debut campaign with Jaimie this week. Jaimie feels eager to see her team hit the floor in their quest to get some victories.
“I’m super excited for the season. I’ve been counting down the days to start. To have my own program to develop has been my dream, so to have a group that has bought in to what I’m trying to do feels great,” Jaimie says. “We played Newtown, Foran, and Career during the preseason, and we’ve seen some good things from the girls throughout all three of those games. We have a lot to learn, and we have to jell, but it’s all up from here.”