Sports teams are often referred to as families. For the Northern Lebanon girls basketball program, that’s literally the case.

“By the second year, it was us three,” said Northern Lebanon head coach Ken Battistelli. “We’ve had some friends and other people that have come and gone throughout the journey but by year two it was me and Gina and Chris.”

Ken Battistelli is in his 17th season leading the Vikings. He took over a program that was among the worst in all of Pennsylvania.

“I think that everybody involved in the program was just hoping for something good,” said Battistelli. “They just wanted to be successful and we were.”

Under Battistelli, Northern Lebanon has become a consistent contender in the Lancaster-Lebanon League and PIAA District 3. It started by reaching the postseason in just his second season on the job.

For help in building the Vikings’ program, Battistelli turned to his family. First, his sister Gina, who joined him as an assistant coach in year one in Fredericksburg.

“One Battistelli does something, we kind of are all in so it wasn’t a hard decision for me,” said Gina, who was a star player at Cedar Crest before continuing her basketball career at Lebanon Valley College.

But the family connection didn’t stop there. After watching his brother and sister from the bleachers in year one, Chris Battistelli, another sibling, decided to join the coaching staff.

Ken Battistelli, Gina Battistelli, and Chris Battistelli pose for a picture after a game. (Provided photo)

“I didn’t have one thought about coaching until my brother got the head job at Northern Lebanon,” said Chris. “The main thing is that first year where I wasn’t involved, I sat in the stands. And when you sit in the stands it can get a little rough. Just seeing how the girls played and all of that … I just knew I could help.”

The three Battistellis play three different roles for the Northern Lebanon players.

“We all have our own personalities so everyone has filled their own niche,” said Ken.

Ken, the head coach, is the old-school, tough leader of the program.

“I’m the one that’s always horrible,” Ken jokes.

Then there’s Chris, who is the “nice” coach.

“I know my brother can push, push, push,” said Chris. “Drive, drive really hard. I have to kind of make them understand what he is trying to do … and just be a little bit more positive.”

Meanwhile, Gina is a combination of her two brothers.

“I am on their level more just because I have been-there, done-that,” said Gina. “I understand some of their problems a little bit better when it comes to a female athlete. … I can be the good, nice one or I can be the tough one.”

“She can be hard or soft depending on what the situation warrants,” said Ken.

As assistant coaches and siblings, Gina and Chris also feel comfortable sharing their honest thoughts and opinions with their head coach brother.

“They are not afraid to let me know when I have done a bad job,” said Ken. “It’s good too because they have absolutely no fear of anything I have to say. So they always give their honest, open opinion. … What am I going to do? Fire them? Mom and Dad would kill me.”

Not only would firing his assistants make for awkward family gatherings but it would be a tactical mistake because the three Battistelli siblings have built a successful program together. As of Jan. 25, Northern Lebanon was 15-2 overall this season with the two losses coming against perennial powerhouse Lancaster Catholic and a Lebanon squad that is one of the best teams in the L-L League.

“One of the main things I think we have been fortunate with, we have been able to develop a relationship with kids that allows us to push them harder than most kids in most of the programs that we come across,” said Ken. “We have created this culture where…we love each other.”

Gina added: “The kids trust in us so much. They buy into it and we all drive for the same goal and we want to be the best we can be.”

Through the work of three family members, a family program has been built at Northern Lebanon. And it all starts with the sibling coaches who work so well together.

“In terms of cohesion and loyalty, you don’t even have to think. We are all in the boat together, no matter what,” said Ken.

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TJ Eck joined LebTown in January 2024. He has been a sports journalist for more than 10 years. Aside from covering sports feature stories for LebTown, TJ covers boys basketball for and serves as a sports correspondent for TJ began his journalism career in 2013 as a...


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