Sports Person of the Week
Crisafi Proudly Continues Family Tradition
East Haven resident and North Haven graduate Jeff Crisafi has spent the last 11 years as an assistant coach with the Yellowjackets’ softball team. As a coach, Jeff is continuing a family tradition that was started by his grandfather and Frank and continued by his father Ed. (Photo courtesy of Jeff Crisafi )
In his high school yearbook, Jeff Crisafi wrote that one of his goals was to be as good of a coach as his grandfather. Jeff’s grandfather was the late Frank Crisafi, who coached the football, boys’ basketball, baseball, and golf teams for a combined 84 seasons at East Haven High School. For the past 11 seasons, Jeff has had the opportunity to not only follow in his grandfather’s footsteps, but also his father Ed Crisafi, as an assistant coach with the East Haven softball squad.
“When I first started, I didn’t think it would become what it is now in terms of what I feel for it and the role I play,” says Jeff, an East Haven resident and 2007 North Haven High School graduate. “The first couple of years, my job was to just hit fly balls and ground balls. I kind of just took my spot on the side. Year by year, I took it more seriously, and I fell in love with a game I never expected to. The love I have for softball and the girls that play for us where I am today is nothing that I thought would ever happen 11 years ago.”
Prior to coaching, Jeff played baseball at Albertus Magnus College in New Haven. During the winter following his sophomore season, he suffered a broken elbow in a sledding accident. From there, Jeff decided to transition from playing baseball into a coaching role. Jeff calls that decision “the best decision I’ve ever made.”
One night at dinner, Jeff asked his father Ed, the head coach of the East Haven softball team, if he could join his staff as an assistant coach. Ed said yes and, since 2009, Jeff has been an assistant coach for the Easties.
Over the past few seasons, Ed have given Jeff more responsibility on the field. Jeff is currently the third base coach and also runs the practices for East Haven’s varsity squad. He’s also the head coach of the JV team.
“Our season doesn’t start until March, but it’s around January I start to put the practice plan together and make sure they’re as close to perfect as they could possibly be,” Jeff says. “I focus on making sure there’s no down time and keep the girls constantly moving. I think that’s what we take pride in most as a program. We will put our practices up against anybody, and we have confidence that our practices are just run differently. That’s why we have so much success when people come to our games and watch us play.”
While Jeff has had the opportunity to learn the coaching ropes under his father, he also had an opportunity to learn from longtime North Haven baseball Head Coach Bob DeMayo. Jeff played for DeMayo, who’s coached the Indians for the past 61 seasons, when he attended North Haven High School.
“I loved Coach DeMayo. He has more experience than anybody in the game,” Jeff says. “I kind of compare him to my grandfather. With Coach DeMayo, you knew what you were getting. There was no behind the scenes. If you showed up every day and worked hard and did your job, you knew that you were going to be in the lineup. Going to practice every day knowing that, you love to play for someone like that.”
Ed Crisafi has been the head coach of East Haven softball since 1994. In 2015, Ed and Jeff guided the Yellowjackets to the Class L state title. Throughout the past 11 seasons, Ed has seen his son grow as a coach and felt comfortable giving him additional responsibilities. Ed says that having Jeff alongside him reminds him of when he would coach with his father.
“It has been great. I coached with my father for three years as his assistant coach. I was just brought up in it,” says Ed. “Having Jeff, it’s like having two head coaches. It’s one of the reasons I hang on. In the long run, I do want to turn the program over to him. He works so hard. The girls all love him. They have a great rapport with him. It has been a great situation.”
Even though the 2020 season isn’t taking place, Jeff and his dad have still been talking shop by discussing various lineups and how their team will look when the Easties finally do take the field. Through coaching, the two of them are staying connected.
While he didn’t expect to get into coaching as early as he did, Jeff always knew that he wanted to be a coach like his father and grandfather. What Jeff didn’t realize, though, is just how much he would enjoy coaching at East Haven. As he’s taken on a bigger role in the program, Jeff has formed stronger bonds with his athletes and come to understand what it means to call himself a coach.
“It’s the relationships you build with the girls, seeing how much time they put into it and how much they care,” Jeff says. “You see the girls come in as freshmen and not know what to expect. By junior year, the girls really understand what it means to be a part of our program. As seniors, they’re almost like little sisters. It’s sad to see them go. The relationships I’d build with the girls is something I never expected when I first came in. Every single year, it’s tougher to see the girls graduate and move on.”