Her monster cookies, her presence at nearly every Titusville High School girls basketball game, her generosity — just a few of the things people miss when they think of Jennifer Troup’s mom, Debra Gates.
Both the Titusville boys and girls basketball teams held a “Pink-Out” at Wednesday night’s senior night games in honor of Troup’s late mom.
Troup coached all levels of basketball in Titusville, from elementary to varsity, for 11 years. Her mom was always there. Even after she was initially diagnosed with stage-two breast cancer in 2014. “She still continued to attend every game,” Troup said. “Many of those games she would bring along cookies for all the girls. She became so attached.” Troup’s parents, from Corry, would travel to away games, as well as every game in Titusville.
When Troups’ season ended last year, she decided to step away and spend more time with her family. Her mom’s cancer returned in September 2019. It was more aggressive and had spread. Troup said her mom fought hard, and always had to know how the Titusville girls team was doing, but she lost her battle in December. “All the girls meant so much to her,” Troup said.
Troup, and her family, also meant a lot to the team. Crystal Gates, THS assistant principal, coached with Troup for eight years. Jen and her family donated their time and even a cow from their farm to be raffled as a fundraiser for the team, Gates said. “It’s fitting to give back to her family,” she said.
“Jen’s mom was awesome,” said THS Girls Basketball Coach Liz Kalodziejczak. “They helped raise a ton of money and build a huge nest egg for the team.” She added that Troups’ mom was “the reason Jen could coach for so long.” “Her mom came to the games and babysat for her while she was coaching,” she said.
Supporting her daughter wasn’t new for Troup’s mom. “Ever since I started playing basketball my family was my number one supporter,” Troup said. She started at Corry High School and continued to play at Mansfield University. Her coaching career at Titusville started in 2008. She started as a Junior Varsity/Middle School coach and moved up to the varsity level after two seasons. “Over those years I have had the pleasure of meeting so many people, players, parents, coaches and the community,” Troup said. “I have gained what I call my extended family.”
The support from her extended family has been overwhelming, Troup said. “Over the past few months I have been overwhelmed by the support of both communities, in Corry and Titusville,” she said. “Our families and friends reached out with a benefit in Corry that had overwhelming support.”
More financial support was offered at Wednesday’s event. Proceeds from T-shirt sales, Jeans Day at the high school and a 50/50 drawing were donated to the family.
“Seeing the Titusville community support was also so heartwarming,” she said. “I have had so many past players, parents and coaches reach out and tell me how much my mom meant to them, She was truly an individual who always thought of others before herself.”
Debra Gates passed that selflessness along to her daughter, according to Scott Salvo, TASD athletic director and technical education instructor. “Coach Troup was one of the hardest-working coaches around, both during the season and in the off-season,” Salvo said. “In this day and age it is very difficult to find coaches that have her passion and dedication; not only to the program, but to the community. She not only made the girls better basketball players, but better young women.”
“This game being dedicated to my mom is so special because it is the girl’s Senior Night,” Troup said of Wednesday night’s event. “They should be honored and they have decided to honor her (mom) as well.”
Lorri Drumm can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.