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Ground breaker: Paige Yoho hired as varsity boys basketball coach at Ishpeming High School

Head coach Paige Yoho, seated at center, discusses strategy with the Ishpeming junior varsity girls basketball team during a recent game. (Photo courtesy Paige Yoho)

ISHPEMING — On the surface, it looks like a bold move to hire Paige Yoho as a varsity coach in the Ishpeming Public Schools.

That’s because she was recently approved by school board at its May 20 meeting to become the basketball coach — for the boys team.

This reporter and Yoho herself couldn’t recall another woman as a head varsity coach in boys basketball in Marquette County, though Yoho seemed to remember that a western Upper Peninsula school like Ontonagon having had that happen.

Either way, it’s still a rather rare occurence.

But delving into it more, it makes nothing but sense for Yoho to take the position.

Paige Yoho, right center, reacts alongside Ishpeming girls basketball head coach Ryan Reichel, left center, during a recent Hematites varsity girls game. (Photo courtesy Paige Yoho)

That’s because this 2011 Negaunee High School graduate has been involved with Ishpeming athletics for the past seven years, including running the middle school basketball program throughout that time and also heading the junior varsity girls basketball program since 2020.

“I will probably be very nervous the first time I coach the team, but not because I’m a woman, just being the varsity coach for the first time,” said Yoho, 31, who also works for the city of Negaunee.

“I don’t want to look at my being the boys coach as some kind of charade, though yes, it would be nice to break the stigma of a female coach in a male sport.

“We have a good group of seniors — who I am familiar with from coaching them when they were younger — who are true basketball players.”

She credits Hematites varsity girls head coach Ryan Reichel — of state championship fame early this spring — as a key into getting into coaching in Ishpeming.

Head coach Paige Yoho, explains strategy while writing on a whiteboard during a recent Ishpeming High School girls basketball game. (Photo courtesy Paige Yoho)

After graduating from Negaunee, she attended and played basketball and softball at the now-closed Finlandia University, graduating in 2015 with a degree in sports management.

“I had moved away for a couple months and I was back in the area in the fall of 2016,” Yoho said. “I ran into Ryan at an alumni tournament, and he asked if I would be interested in coaching.

“I think he’d been hired as coach in Ishpeming about two or three years before that.”

She had also did a bit of coaching at Finlandia and in the Adams Township School District — which is affiliated with Jeffers High School in Painesdale — around the time she graduated from Finlandia.

“So I consider Ryan Reichel to be one of my best friends,” Yoho said. “In fact, Ryan is going to be standing in my wedding in August.”

Ishpeming High School JV girls basketball head coach Paige Yoho looks up at the scoreboard during a recent game played at Westwood in Ishpeming. (Photo courtesy Paige Yoho)

She added that Reichel, Ishpeming athletic director Bruce Matson and Ishpeming principal Seth Hoopingarner all made strong recommendations for Yoho to get the boys basketball position.

“Their support was a motivator for me to try to get the position,” Yoho said.

She added that all these school officials were looking to move the boys program in a new direction.

“It’s all about the kids,” Yoho said. “I want to be a good, positive influence and help them moving forward.”

She didn’t want to get too much into her strategies or coaching style, except that she knows hard work can pay dividends.

“We’ve already had a couple open gyms,” she said. “We’ll be going to three team camps this summer.”

Steve Brownlee can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 552. His email address is sbrownlee@miningjournal.net.

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