Playing for Dad

In his first year at the helm of the West Union Lady Dragons varsity basketball program, Coach J.R. Kirker had the honor of coaching his own daughter Mckenzie. Photo by Mark Carpenter

Local players, coaches talk about the pros and cons of parents coaching their own – 

By Mark Carpenter – 

“I’ll have the things my father provided. I never want to put pressure on my daughter or son. If he had put pressure on me, I might have been a good player. But who knows how much I would have liked it–or loved the game like I do.”
Those are the words of former NBA All-Star Allan Houston,who played for his father Wade at the University of Tennessee, one of many examples of sons and daughters who have been coached by their own parent.
It happens everywhere from the lowest levels of youth sports all the way to the highest levels of college and professional sports. Parents coaching their own kids. Youth sports thrive on parent-coaches with an estimated 90% of youth coaches having one or more children of their own on their teams. Studies have shown that parent involvement is an important part of a child’s athletic experience, but with the “coaching my own kid” territory comes a lot of questions and in most cases, a good bit of extra pressure on both ends.
Here in Adams County, there are numerous instances of parents who coach their own children, all the way from the Pee-Wee levels to the local high school teams. What are the pros and cons of being on the sideline with a youngster that also lives in your home? Is there extra pressure to perform? Is the parent-coach tougher on his/her own kid that others? Are the expectations higher that your child will be the “superstar”? Are there the whispers in the crowd that your child is only playing because you are the coach?
The Defender talked to a number of local high school coaches and their children who are part of this fraternity of parents coaching their own for their reactions.
J.R. Kirker recently completed his first season as the coach of the West Union Lady Dragons varsity basketball squad. As tough as it was to adjust to coaching at the varsity level, Kirker also had to deal with having his daughter Mckenzie on the team.
Kirker coached his daughter at the Pee-Wee and junior high levels and Mckenzie saw a difference immediately.
“Oh, he’s way harder now,” she said. “He likes to yell at me more and sometimes the car rides home are not that fun. I do get an occasional ‘you did good in the game.’ Overall though, I really do love playing for my Dad. I figure he knows what he is doing most of the time.”
“It’s probably one of the hardest things to do really,” says J.R. about coaching his daughter. “But it is also the greatest thing that you will ever do. I am probably harder on her, taking her out of the game quicker than I might others, but I feel like I have a lot of daughters out there.”

The Meades, from left, Cole, Rob, and Trey.

“You just have to cherish these moments because a lot of people don’t get to coach their own kids and I consider myself fortunate. Blink your eye and they’re gone”
One of the most well-known sports families in Adams County is the Meade family from North Adams. Dad Rob was an exceptional athlete for the Devils himself and returned to his alma mater as a teacher and now a basketball and baseball coach for many years. In the course of that career, he has coached his oldest set of twins,Cole and Trey, in both sports.
“I have been fortunate to coach my boys,” says Rob. “It comes with both pros and cons but is well worth it. Sports is what we do. Just like other fathers across the country have shared their vocational passions-farming, banking, law, medicine-I shared my passion for sports. It was a joy to watch them get to wear the North Adams jerseys.”
“I’m sure there were situations that I’ve taken my frustration out on them when I was upset over something unrelated to them and I know that was tough on them. Both of the boys want to coach in the future and I hope spending so much time with me in the gym played a huge part in those aspirations.”
Cole and Trey are both now members of the Rio Grande University baseball program and both say they enjoyed having Dad as a coach.
“You learn more about the game than anyone else because you always have your teacher nearby,” said Cole. “It definitely made me closer with my Dad and I wouldn’t have had it any other way. Of course, if you mess up you might hear it more than someone else.”
“I loved every minute of having my Dad as a coach,” says Trey. “It was a great feeling to share the success I had growing up with him. It allowed me to create memories that will last a lifetime. I knew what he expected, and for me, that allowed me to focus on just the game itself.”
“There weren’t too many cons to having him as a coach. On rare occasions we would bring disagreements home but we were usually pretty good at separating the two. I don’t know if I could have been half the player I was if it wasn’t for him.”
For Rob, the story isn’t over. His second set of twins, Seth and Cade, are moving up to high school and Dad is set to lead the way again.
Says Rob, “Coaching Cade and Seth in the future will have similar pros and cons but I am looking forward to making memories with them just the same.”
(Look for Part Two of this story in next Wednesday’s edition of The People’s Defender.)