May 8, 2006

Batastini Has Found Her Niche

By: Carolyn Thornton, Providence Journal Sports Writer
May 7, 2006

Basketball has taken Christina Batastini all over the world.

It took the former Classical All-American and New England Basketball Hall of Famer to the West Coast, where she played for Stanford, a top university with one of the country's best Division I programs.

Basketball also took her overseas, where she visited nearly a dozen countries and learned two new languages while playing professionally for four years against some of the best players in Europe.

And now, basketball has brought Batastini, 28, back to Rhode Island, where for the past 10 months, the Providence resident has been helping other young people build a solid basketball foundation, which just might help them create their own exciting opportunities.

"I'm doing this because I enjoy it and there's a need for it," said Batastini, who has created The Batastini School of Basketball.

Basketball was not the only area of excellence for Batastini, who was the 1996 Providence Journal Honor Roll Girl. She also earned All-State honors in cross country and track, and was named to both the Nike and Parade All-America basketball teams.

Even while she was playing pro ball in Italy, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland, Batastini had begun to realize how much she enjoyed working with young players through various basketball clinics she conducted in Europe.

Although she enjoyed serving as an assistant to Brown women's basketball coach Jean Marie Burr for the 2004-05 season after deciding it was time to bring her professional career to a close, it was becoming clearer to Batastini that she was meant to utilize her talents on the court in a different way.

Those talents and the direction she's taking them can be traced to being a 5-year-old sitting on the bench beside her father, Armand, watching him coach the St. Pius CYO teams. Batastini has seen the lasting impact her father has had on generations of players, and now she would like to do the same.

She began working with two sixth-grade boys who played for her father's team and were looking for some help on their games in the summer.

Then the phone started ringing as word got out that Batastini was providing individual instruction. In no time, she was working with 30 kids.

Last fall, she began conducting camps and clinics at various gymnasiums in Providence. Batastini is now also working with a number of Rhode Island College players and has been commissioned by Providence College coach Phil Seymore to work with some of the Lady Friars over the summer.

"It's just enjoyable working with the kids," she said. "It's fun to see the big difference I can make. I feel like I'm really helping them. My only goal is to make them better. I've embraced the idea that I can help a lot of players get to where they want to go."

Although she does work with boys, Batastini's client base has been primarily girls. And that's fine with her.

"I think that's going to be my niche," said Batastini, who feels strongly about including current and former Rhode Island female players on her staff to serve as role models. "I think it's important for the girls to be able to see someone like me or someone like Chelsea Marandola, [the Johnston All-Stater who just finished her rookie season at PC]. They need to be able to see females from Rhode Island who have gone on to be successful in college."

Batastini says that the one-on-one instruction she provides is something that most coaches simply don't have the luxury of doing when they are trying to manage a team of 10 to 12 kids.

She is amazed at how many youngsters lack the proper fundamentals, attributing some of the bad habits kids develop to shooting with "the wrong size ball at the wrong size hoop at a young age" and mimicking what they see the pros doing on television.

When working with a player, Batastini doesn't give them the ball until they have mastered a particular drill without it, and she won't let them shoot at a hoop until they have perfected their form.

"We go over and over it, and until someone can do something little, I don't introduce them to something more complicated," she said. "In order to move up, you have to have strong fundamentals."

Seeing some of her former Stanford teammates and classmates working on Wall Street, running start-up companies in California and becoming executives in the NBA, Batastini sometimes questions the career path she has chosen, wondering if she should be better utilizing her degree in American Studies. But ultimately, she comes to the realization that this is exactly what she should be doing with her life right now.

"Sometimes I ask myself, 'What am I doing?' " Batastini said. "But in the end, I wouldn't be happy without having basketball in my life. I always knew I would be doing something with athletics. It's just a part of me. I can't separate the two."