John Marzina has the perfect comeback to parents who complain about busy schedules with one or two kids: He whips out his iPhone, synchronized to identical phones used by his wife and four kids, and shows his calendar app, with glowing games, practices and work obligations lighting up every minute of his daily schedule.
“People just can’t believe it,” said Mr. Marzina, who also coaches the girls basketball team at St. Anne Elementary School in Castle Shannon.
But it’s really his wife, Stefany, who keeps the Baldwin Township family organized — an incredible feat, considering that her son and daughter each played on championship-level basketball teams for the same school during the same time period this season.
Their oldest son, Johnny, 16, a junior at Seton-LaSalle High School, played in the PIAA boys basketball championship match Saturday in Hershey. The team lost, 61-59, in a last-minute heartbreaker against Constitution of Philadelphia, but it was the first time in 26 years that Seton-LaSalle boys had made it to the championships.
A day earlier, their daughter Mia, 14, a freshman at Seton-LaSalle, was part of the team that won the girls AA state championship, defeating Neumann-Goretti of Philadelphia, 58-50. It was second title in three years for the girls team.
“It felt amazing,” Mia said. “I didn’t see any play time, but it just felt good being in the moment. We were screaming and going crazy.”
With two older children consumed by playoffs in recent weeks and two younger children with their own activities, calling the family's schedule crazy doesn’t begin to describe the whirlwind of slow cooker meals, worn tires and exhausting days.
“When I tell you we don’t have a night free, I’m not exaggerating,” said Mrs. Marzina, a 1989 Seton-LaSalle graduate who remembers the last boys basketball title. “It’s very hectic.”
While the trip to Hershey last weekend produced a mixed result for the Marzinas, the kids supported one another, going to each other’s games and cheering on both teams.
“They both handle each other very well,” Mrs. Marzina said. “They are always boosting each other up.”
The younger children, Abby, 11, a fifth-grader at St. Anne, and Max, 6, a kindergartner, also are involved in basketball.
Abby plays for the elementary school team that her dad coaches and Max participates in Little Dribblers, a program conducted by Mr. Marzina for younger students.
Mr. Marzina said he didn't play basketball in high school or college but often played pickup games in his Beechview neighborhood while growing up. After his children were born, he installed a hoop on their dead-end street so that anybody from the neighborhood could play.
Mrs. Marzina is a stay-at-home mom who also volunteers as a booster for the boys basketball team, and Mr. Marzina owns and operates Battaglia Construction Co. of South Hills, so he often stops at customer’s homes on the way to or from one of the kids' practices.
“I’m working all day, looking at two jobs on the way home, then going to practice until nine at night,” he said. “I just keep on going and make sure everyone is where they’re supposed to be.”
Mrs. Marzina steers each member of the family through their daily schedules and relies on crockpot meals to nourish them.
"She keeps a lot of things straight," Mr. Marzina said of his wife. "My wife does a good job of keeping us on our toes."
“My in-laws help me a lot and other parents help, too,” she said. “Every day and every night there’s something.”
Mia, who also plays volleyball for Seton-LaSalle, hopes to get more playing time as she advances through high school and is thinking of pursuing a career in physical therapy.
Neither knows what college they want to attend, but Johnny works helping his father during summer breaks and is interested in a sports marketing career.
Watching his sister’s team win was bittersweet, but Johnny said he and his teammates were genuinely happy for the girls.
“I was proud of her,” he said. “They worked hard.”
Playoff season — which included three weeks with as many as five playoff games per week — has ended, but the three oldest children soon will begin practice for a traveling team they play on in the off-season. And, Mrs. Marzina won’t get a break, either.
“I coach the track team at St. Anne’s,” she said.
As for advice for other busy families, Mrs. Marzina said she tries to keep things simple, avoids fast-food when possible, doesn't beat herself up for missing a game here and there, and most of all, stays organized.
“I think organization is a huge factor in making things [run] so smoothly,” she said. “You have to take things in stride and don’t sweat the small stuff.”
Janice Crompton: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1159.