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Wednesday, April 17, 2024

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Faith, Hoops Entwine in Former Coach’s Life

David DeWeese retired after 33 years of coaching boys’ basketball at Wildwood Catholic Academy and remains passionate about helping local youth.   

By Rachel Rogish

NORTH WILDWOOD – Sneakers squeak against a polished floor. Fans cheer amid the audible swish of a basketball through a net. A man makes calls on the court, encouraging and directing the team. This man was David DeWeese, coach of the Wildwood Catholic Academy Crusaders for 33 years. 
DeWeese, 63, served as head coach for 18 years, fulfilling a lifelong passion for sports and helping the next generation. 
Hometown Pride
“I grew up in a sports family,” explained DeWeese, a lawyer and former judge, sitting in his office’s conference room Sept. 16. 
His father, Doug, coached in Wildwood before becoming athletic director at Lower Cape May Regional, in 1962. 
“I was exposed to sports at a very young age,” DeWeese said. 
He grew up in the Roman Catholic tradition and watched his parents demonstrate moral behavior and values. DeWeese grew up in North Wildwood and found his way onto the basketball court to the delight of family and fellow players. 
Although higher education led him away from Five Mile Island, DeWeese never abandoned his passion for athleticism or his faith. 
“Faith has carried me through all aspects of my life,” DeWeese said. 
Now What? 
Despite his success on the court, DeWeese said he “didn’t know” what path in life he should pursue. He studied at Wake Forest University and described himself as “on the fence” about a career. 
The law intrigued DeWeese and he struck his course. 
Later, DeWeese returned to Cape May County. After looking for coaching positions, he became the assistant head coach at Wildwood Catholic, in 1989. He also became the youngest judge in the state, at 31.
Tough Love
How do the law and basketball combine? According to DeWeese, he uses the same values on the bench and court by combining discipline and steering others to the right path. 
“It’s not just about basketball, it’s about life,” he added. 
For DeWeese, successful coaches model correct behavior, structure and perseverance. 
“I measure success in the character of the players,” DeWeese said.
“Religion is not an easy sell for young people. We use sports to get the young people to buy into it, to practice it and use it in their lives,” he clarified. 
“One of the focuses of the Catholic Church is to attract younger people,” DeWeese explained. 
He said many former players have “attributed” part of their success to him. 
“I was a taskmaster,” he added. 
New Vistas
DeWeese announced his retirement Aug. 20 and, recently, Wildwood Catholic announced Anthony Raffa will replace him. 
According to media sources, Raffa, 32, played professionally in Europe and the Middle East, until he contracted Covid. He played under DeWeese when the Crusaders won the championship, in 2007. 
What’s Next?
DeWeese said he anticipates spending more time with his wife, Michelle, and sons. The demands of his law firm also require time and attention.
Yet, he won’t be absent from basketball or mentoring young people, according to DeWeese. 
He urges youth to learn communication skills, adopt a “good” work ethic, and develop the “drive” to set and achieve their goals. He is grateful for the opportunity to help “shape” the lives of the next generation, in a faith-based environment. 
“Hopefully, Wildwood Catholic can survive and thrive,” DeWeese concluded.
Faith Matters is an ongoing series exploring the connection between individuals and their faith, impacting their families, community, and beyond. Those with a story of faith to share should contact the writer at rrogish@cmcherald.com. 

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