Velardi sets bar high as new girls basketball coach


Nygel Waugh, Reporter

The girls basketball program will look different this year for a lot of reasons: health checks, fewer games, empty bleachers, and a new coach.

But that doesn’t mean the standards are any lower.

“I’m setting the bar and my expectations high,” said HMS teacher Mike Velardi. “And they know it.”

Velardi has started his new position as the HHS girls head basketball coach and is ready for the challenge.

“I was able to apply for the position for Girls Basketball when the job opened due to the prior coach leaving,” he said. “It was an easy decision for my family and me. I have always wanted to become a varsity head coach at the high school level. It was the perfect opportunity to get my feet wet and achieve something I love doing: being a coach.”

Velardi  played one season in his freshmen year in high school, but due to training for football and baseball, his playing career got cut short for one season.

Even know this is his first time as a head coach at the high school level, he is not the new kid on the block. He has been coaching for nearly two decades: 17 years to be more exact.

During those 17 years, he spent first two as an assistant coach under Coach Joe Martino for the boys basketball program and then spent the next 13 years as an assistant coach for the boys basketball middle school team. He’s also served as the head coach of the middle school girls basketball program for the past two seasons.

With a 17 year career (and 15 as an assistant coach), he has worked  under some great coaches  in Hammonton and looks to learn from their Successes and mistakes.

“I have learned many positives from some great coaches during football with Coach Raso, baseball with Coach Silvesti, and basketball with Coach Adirzone on how to have your athletes buy in on the culture and continuity you want and need as a head coach,” he said.

But all coaches have their challenges. For instance, coaching a contact sport in the middle of a pandemic isn’t an easy thing to do, but Velardi is committed to make it work.

“COVID has hit the high school, college, and sports world full steam,” he said. “Temperature checks, sanitizing basketballs, and making sure to keep a 6-foot distance on the court (while wearing masks) has become the everyday norm now.”

All coaches want to win,  but Velardi has his sights set on the division this year because the Lady Blue Devils have not won since the 17-18 season . However, that was in the Tri-County League And this year, there are no statewide playoff games, and 12 out of 14 of the games will be division games so it so every win is going to count towards wining the division.

Coach Velardi wants to get rolling right off the bat.

“We, as a team, are very excited to get the season underway,” he said.

The girls have their first game is tonight at home at 5:30 against cross-town rival St. Joseph. This will also be Senior Night, when the senior players are honored. Fans can watch all home games here.


See below for active links to all the live streams for away games: