TRUMBULL – The usual basketball game day at the Lindwall household goes as one may expect. St. Joseph girls’ coach Chris Lindwall gets a “go get them” from his wife Janice. They in turn give a hug to daughter Julia and wish her good luck as she heads to Trumbull High.
That is customary. The routine will be different on Saturday when Lindwall goes head-to-head with Julia, one of the Trumbull captains, when the town rivals meet in the Playing For A Cure contest to benefit the American Cancer Society.
“It is pretty weird. The weirdest part is beforehand,” said Julia. “We just say to each other: ‘See you later.’
And for mom? Julia said: “She sits on the Trumbull side.”
Chris picks up the conversation here: “She’ll be wearing black and gold on Saturday.”
And mom says: “Blood is thicker…”
So how did the Lindwalls go their separate ways? Afterall, Chris coached Julia from 3rd grade through middle school. Together at St. Theresa School they won a pair of New England CYO titles (6th and 8th grade).
Chris said: “She wanted to stay with her teammates. Her friends made the decision to go to Trumbull High, so Julia’s biggest decision was do I go play for my dad or go play with my friends? We wanted only what was best for Julia. Trumbull’s reputation with what Steve Tobitsch has built there regarding the team atmosphere made it an easier choice.”
Julia never second guessed the decision.
“I love basketball. It is my favorite thing to do. Honestly, the close relationship I have with my dad is helped by basketball. The hardest thing is on game nights when we say goodbye and good luck,” she said.
Mom lands in the middle.
“My life with Chris has revolved around basketball from the moment I met him (1993 at the Lindwall’s family deli in Fairfield). Both of our children (Justin) have played basketball,” she said. “My first thought when the decision was made for Julia to go to Trumbull High was ‘how am I going to do this’? As husband and wife, we made the decision that it has to be about Julia.”
When Trumbull and St. Joseph play on the same night, Janice finds a way to get the best from both worlds.
“Last year when Trumbull games were done early, me and Julia would jump in the car and take all the back roads to get there for the end of Chris’ game,” she said. “We learned all the shortcuts.”
The family basketball rivalry extends to Julia and Justin, who graduated from Trumbull in 2018.
When asked who has the better of it on the driveway court, Justin said, “It’s not even close, she has never beat me in anything basketball related, and it will always stay that way.”
And if Julia hits a couple of outside shots to go to up in the score. Do you take the ball inside and post up? “Well yes, that’s usually how it goes. As a player you have to take all of the advantages you can. I’m at the University of Rhode Island studying finance and trying to watch as many games as I can (virtually). I try to get home for the games they play; give dad a few coaching tips and Julia a few playing tips.”
Chris Lindwall hopes Julia won’t look for any shortcuts on the court Saturday.
“It’s hard. I still run the same basic offenses. I’ve coached most of those kids (Grace Lesko, Amanda Ruchalski, Emi Roberto) because they came through the St. Theresa program,” he said. “They know the plays; they know what’s going on. They are used to it. We use different play calls for this game, but Julia is one of the smartest players around, so she sees when we get into our sets what’s going on. Last year, the success she had at (our game at) Fairfield U, scoring 11 points and her playing the way she did especially in the third quarter (pair of 3-pointers), well, she knew what was going on.”
Chris Lindwall relishes being part of the town rivalry.
“It’s enjoyable to have the passion that we’ve built between the teams,” he said. “The St. Joe’s-Trumbull rivalry goes back to way before the Lindwalls became involved. At the same time, we understand that we are doing this for fun and to enjoy the moment.”