Basketball big part of her life Beth Helfer coached girls sports when it wasn't fashionable
By CHRIS LARICK Staff Writer
Beth Helfer played basketball before Pymatuning Valley had a girls team. Despite her lack of high school team experience, Helfer went on to play for Kent State University-Ashtabula Campus. "They didn't have girls sports," Helfer, a 1967 graduate of Pymatuning Valley who will be one of the first inductees into the Ashtabula County Basketball Foundation Hall of Fame on April 6 said of her early athletic experience at PV. "I had an elementary principal, E.J. Kinleyside. Bob Hitchcock (another inductee) and I went to elementary school right here in Richmond. E.J. was big on basketball. Every kid through elementary school played basketball all the time. "On weekends, the coal chute was left open. We'd slide down the coal chute and there were always basketballs left on the stage. That's what we did, my brothers and me." When Helfer got to high school, there was no girls team, so she became a statistician for the boys team. "Probably the main influence on me through high school was Joe Shantz, without a doubt," she said. "He was Bob's coach. I statted for him. My inspiration for getting into basketball was watching Joe, working with him." When she enrolled at Kent, Helfer went out for and made the team, then coached by Frieda Fly. When she became girls basketball coach at Pymatuning Valley, Helfer remembered what she had learned from Fly. "She was a tremendous influence," Helfer said. "I was fortunate enough to have really good athletes and students to work with when I coached, exceptional kids who'd give 110 percent. I always felt I was able to adjust to the type of players I had. "I always considered myself a student of the game. There weren't many clinics I didn't attend. I got as much information as I could; I was always looking for the one thing that would help a kid." In her quest to learn more, Helfer attended as many tournaments as she could fit into her schedule. "There aren't any tournaments I haven't seen somewhere in the state of Ohio," she said. "If something clicked, I'd write it down." Though the Mid-American Conference didn't have a women's basketball league at that time, Helfer played against most of those schools while playing guard for the Vikings. Kent did play against other Ohio colleges in a state tournament at Cedarville. When Helfer graduated and returned to PV as a teacher/coach in 1974, she took over a Lakers girls program that had been established for two years with Carla Walchak as coach. Helfer immediately coached volleyball, basketball and softball upon her return to PV. "I was girls athletic director," she said. "I coached all three sports for $500. (Boys coaches) probably made that in one sport." In basketball, Helfer was at the helm of the Lakers for 20 seasons, compiling a record of 197-190 (.509), leading PV to eight conference championships (six in the Grand River Conference, two in the East Suburban Conference) and two sectional championships (in 1990-91 and 1991-92). Her 1990-91 Lakers squad reached the district championship game against Brookfield before having its season come to a close. Helfer returned to the sidelines in 1999-2000 and coached the Chardon Hilltoppers for two seasons. During the nearly three decades since she has been involved with girls high school sports, first as a coach, now as athletic director for the Lakers, Helfer has seen the level of basketball change. "The girls have improved immensely the last 25 years," she said. "The interest has increased in women's college basketball, even more so the last 10 years with the women's NBA. "The talent is being exploited more than ever with national television and commercials." Helfer is excited about being in the first class of inductees into the ACBF's Hall of Fame. "First of all, I think it's long overdue, it should have come a long time ago," she said of the organization. " I'm thrilled (the foundation) is getting started. They've done it for years for football. 1/25/2018 TheACBF.com - Hall of Fame Archives 2/2 "My first reaction (to being named to the Hall of Fame) was kind of shocked. Now that I've had time to think about it, I'm more impressed and honored. I always heard about Gene Gephart and Ed Batanian (two other inductees) when I was a kid growing up. "I was in school when Al Bailey was at Geneva, watched him coach. They were legends in their time. I feel honored to go in as one of the first inductees. "I admired Al Bailey and Gene Gephart. Those guys were legends in their time. It's an honor to go in with those distinguished gentlemen." HELFER AT THE HELM PV 1974-75 - 8-2 GRC 1975-76 - 8-1 GRC 1976-77 - 6-10 1977-78 - 11-3 GRC 1978-79 - 13-6 GRC 1979-80 - 13-7 1980-81 - 13-8 GRC 1981-82 - 4-16 1982-83 - 6-13 1983-84 - 7-14 1984-85 - 17-4 GRC 1985-86 - 2-19 1986-87 - 3-18 1987-88 - 6-16 1988-89 - 12-9 1989-90 - 18-4 1990-91 - 21-2 ESC, S, DF 1991-92 - 13-9 ESC, S 1992-93 - 10-12 1993-94 - 6-16 Chardon 1999-00 - 5-16 2000-01 - 8-14 Totals - 210-220 (.488) Key - GRC denotes Grand River Conference championship, ESC denotes East Suburban Conference championship, S denotes sectional championship, DF denotes reached district finals.