Dayna Greenfield boasts an impressive athletic resume: Between 2004 and 2006, the Squirrel Hill native started for Washington and Jefferson University’s women’s basketball team. Two years earlier, she played ball for Clark University, and before that she was a star at Taylor Allderdice High School. She remains the second all-time leading scorer in girls’ basketball at the high school.
But for all of her athletic achievements, which also include a stint as captain and two-year starter for Washington and Jefferson women’s rugby team, Greenfield’s greatest gift to sport may be the one people know least about: Since 2013, Greenfield has served as a volunteer coach for the girls’ basketball and cross-country teams at Hillel Academy of Pittsburgh.
Greenfield’s presence at the Orthodox Jewish day school is a boon, said Dan Shaw, the school’s director of student life.
“Dayna is a dedicated, caring and energetic coach who has volunteered at Hillel for over four years,” said Shaw. “Her involvement in the Athletics and Club Department has allowed us to offer numerous athletic opportunities to our female students such as track, cross country and basketball.”
If anyone can appreciate what these outlets mean for girls at Jewish day schools, it is Greenfield, who attended both Hillel Academy and Community Day School.
As a child, “I wasn’t given that opportunity as a member of my school,” she said.
Instead of suiting up with her classmates, Greenfield turned to the Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh, where from kindergarten through high school she was a member of the JCC’s basketball program and participated in its traveling all-star teams.
Greenfield is thankful for those chances but said that “it’s nothing” like what the girls at Hillel Academy are achieving now.
Playing on a school team, “there’s a sense of pride,” she said. “Your school, it’s like your community, your family. You’re with these people for pretty much your entire life, and you want to achieve these things with the people you’ve grown up with.
“Giving these girls at Hillel an opportunity to compete against other schools, I wasn’t given that chance when I was younger,” she added. “So I am ecstatic to accomplish that.”
Greenfield is particularly proud of her players’ growth. She recalled the start of one season’s cross-country practice, when participants were unable to complete a mile, and juxtaposed it to season’s end, when every girl finished her best race.
“I think that’s a pretty good highlight,” she said.
Accomplishment and attitude have always operated simultaneously for Greenfield, said Larry Rubin, her Little League coach from years ago.
She was “clearly the best athlete,” noted Rubin. “Dayna played any position at any time. She had a fabulous attitude: She was never about herself, never complained.
“There were times that I had to move her into less important positions or sit her down to give other people time to play who were far, far worse than her, and she accepted the process,” added Rubin. “She was extremely coachable, genuine, always smiling, just a perfect coachable person and a complete asset to the team.”
Rubin, a Squirrel Hill resident, is partially why Greenfield volunteers for hours each week. She credited him, as well as Susie Reinfeld, Sherree Hall, Sam Bloom and Michael Rubin, for teaching “me to give back.”
“So I’m doing the same,” she said. “They were just good role models for us; they would teach you the right way. That really kind of stuck.”
Now that it is her turn to coach, Greenfield is emulating the lessons of her childhood.
“I try not to tell [the players] ‘no.’ I try to correct in a positive fashion as opposed to negative yelling and screaming,” she explained. “Kids shut off if they’re talked down to. You need to respect the people you coach if you want to be respected by them.”
Greenfield has worked hard to earn that respect. As a coach, she offers grit, guidance and assurance, and because of this, describing “how much Dayna means to the program” is tough, said Shaw.
At the center of it all is an acknowledgement that at the end of the day, what happens on the court or the track is much bigger than the sport.
Competitive sports develop “better self-esteem” and “awareness of other things,” said Greenfield, who will be inducted into the Jewish Sports Hall of Fame of Western Pennsylvania in June. “I’m teaching them about life lessons. It’s not just about sports.”
Adam Reinherz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.