Kaylee Cerruto: Teaching the futures stars of THS girls basketball.
Former Raider Kaylee Cerruto. Working hard at something she loves; coaching the future of Torrington girls basketball with PAL with an eye on bigger things at THS.
TORRINGTON: All she wants to do is teach. All she wants to do is coach. All she wants to do is be part of the future of developing girls’ basketball in the City of Torrington.
She’s a face that has spent most of her young life on the hardwood floors of either the Torrington Armory of the Connie Donahue Gymnasium.
I’m talking about Kaylee Cerruto, former Torrington Raider and Mitchell College standout who is trying to make a serious difference when it comes to making sure girls’ basketball in her home town stays strong.
Cerruto was recently named the Police Athletic League Volunteer Women of the Year and will be jetting off to Salt Lake City, Utah to claim her award on May 19.
The Cerruto name is one local sports folks have gotten accustomed to for over 15 years. George Cerruto has been a mainstay in the feeder system that has taken kids from the early days of learning how to dribble the ball to how to perform on the biggest stages.
Point guards and three point shooters by trade, both Kaylee and younger sister Mariah were key components on some of the best teams ever to come away from the Connie Donahue over the years they played there.
Current Raider standout, Brie Pergola is a cousin of the Cerruto family and George helped mold her into one pretty terrific sophomore who earned All-State honors earlier this year for her prowess on the court.
Kaylee Cerruto jumped into this job after returning home from Mitchell College where she earned her degree in sports management and to her it was a natural progression.
“Last year when I came back to Torrington it made perfect sense to me to try and find a job coaching,” Cerruto said, “I decided I really wanted to coach so I reached out to Tony Pietrafesa and I knew they were looking for someone so I got involved. I love it.”
It’s a time consuming labor of love for most coaches and the former Raider is no exception.
“We have practice twice a week,” Cerruto said, “Games every weekend during the season. Sometimes we would have three practices a week with games. Now that the season is over I’m running clinics on Monday nights with my father and Steve Moriah. We go over the fundamentals. It’s about shooting and dribbling, the small things. We want to build the program back up.”
In the early days of her basketball career, the number of girls who came out to play were much larger than they are now, a common issue with girls’ sports in a lot of areas right now.
Each sixth, seventh and eighth grade classes used to have enough players on the roster to form three separate teams.
“In my sixth grade year,” Cerruto said, “We had 18 girls try out and we never had to split the teams up. This year we had just five sixth graders sign up so it’s definitely dropped off.”
During her years at THS, she played with some very talented players who won more than their fair share of games against NVL foes, Holy Cross, Naugatuck, Sacred Heart and the likes.
“My senior year I played with Lindsay Begey, Brooke Johnson, Amy Rice, Sarah Royals and Lauren Cilfone,” Cerruto said.
That was a very talented team indeed.
Since Cerruto played for the always energetic Mike Fritch during her years at the high school, I asked her how she would describe her coaching style.
“It’s funny,” Cerruto said, “Now coach Fritch is refereeing my games. So he coached me and now he’s doing my games. It’s definitely cool. Sometimes I tell myself that I’m going to yell and get thrown out but I haven’t yet.”
Her time in college is a span that she will not soon forget.
“Mitchell was good,” Cerruto said, “I loved it, it’s was a great four years. My junior and senior year I was named captain.”
During this past season, Cerruto took her teams down to Hamden and Quinnipiac University to see two people very special to her.
“It was awesome,” Cerruto said, “One because Mariah goes there, the second because I knew Sarah was going to be there (as a member of the Albany Great Danes). It was very easy to get tickets and the girls loved it. I told Steve Moriah that this was a great opportunity to take the kids to a game, show them around a University they may go to themselves someday.”
The kids wore their team uniforms, sang on the bus on the way up and back and truly soaked in the experience.
“The kids were really having fun,” Cerruto said, “And that’s what’s so important. If they’re not having fun at this level, they’re going to leave before the get to high school.”
The bonds that form between teammates is something that any former athlete at any level will tell you is the most memorable part about the entire time playing. Sure, winning is fun but the lessons learned are invaluable.
Cerruto held pizza parties, created a Secret Santa at Christmas, all to foster that feeling of hanging out with family, which most teams become.
The culmination of her career to date came this season when her team won the State Division Finals, a moment that she had the chance to take in from a different angle.
“That was the most rewarding thing out of anything for me,” Cerruto said, “Me and my dad just kind of stepped back and watched them celebrate and that was just terrific.”
Her father’s love of coaching the future basketball players for THS is engrained in his always smiling middle daughter and both want players to want more from the sport.
“We want people to come back, we want people to love playing basketball,” Cerruto said, “That’s what’s so important. What my dad has done for so long is to get these kids to play in sixth seventh and eighth grades and then go on and play at the high school. That’s why we really try and make sure these girls come back every year.”
At 5’1”, it’s not hard for the energetic Cerruto to relate to some of her players who may not break the six-foot mark but can still be outstanding players in their own right.
“We have a player on the team right now, Susie who is small,” Cerruto said, “And I tell her, that was me. It doesn’t matter how tall you are, it’s how hard you work and how much heart you have.”
Playing for Fritch can be a challenge for players but the ones who make it through and take the message to heart, usually go on and flourish in whatever they do in life.
“It was tough,” Cerruto said, “There were some days that I truly wanted to quit basketball but there were other days when I just loved it. It was hit or miss. By going through it though, I have become mentally tougher. It built me up and gave me more opportunities to play in college as well.”
What does the future hold for the Raider lifer?
“I would love to coach at the high school level,” Cerruto said, “Teaching these young girls at this level is getting me confidence. I’m more aggressive this year than I was last year.”
Keeping and developing players is critical to any programs future, keeping the coaching ranks filled with former Armory and Connie Donahue alumni is equally important.
In the case of Kaylee Cerruto, we have a perfect fit for one of the first three chairs on the bench of future Raiders games.