What it's like to be a coach's kid

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small town football

Credit: New York Times

The following was written by Westmoore (Oklahoma) High School defensive coordinator Ty Gower. Enjoy.

WHAT IT MEANS TO BE A COACH’S KID

Growing up in small town America, you have a few gas stations, one shade tree mechanic, the local grocery store that may or may not have everything you need, maybe a ma and pop restaurant, possibly a feed store, and let’s not forget about the one cop that everybody knows patrolling the streets that makes you continuously wonder if there was a high speed chase, would the car even reach 85 MPH? Oh, and let’s not forget about the one local barber shop where you’re sure to pick up on the town gossip, including every wrong decision the coach made at Friday nights football game. Yes, a high school football game. This is where my story begins. For some, you will have no idea what I am talking about, for others you might want to grab a tissue or two. (It’s ok. I have some as I am writing this.)

For years growing up, this was where I got my haircut from butcher Bill. A wonderful older gentlemen, with a kind heart and could cut the best flat top this side of the Mississippi River. Problem with being the only barbershop in town was the long waiting lines and all the “football talk” a guy could stand. Since I was old enough to walk, I went to Bill’s shop with dad in his 1978 CJ-7 jeep that was anything but show room material.

“Hey Bill.”
“Hey Coach. Tough loss last night.”
“Yes sir, but we will get ‘em next time.”

It wasn’t till later that I understood that the barber and everybody else waiting for the haircut couldn’t just say, “Hey coach.” No, instead they had to make sure they got in the “tough loss” part as well. Dad never wavered. Standing proud after his heart was broken only 12 hours previous. On the way home after a sweet haircut and free piece of the best bubble gum ever, dad always used to tell me, “You stand up. Don’t let them see you sweat. Be proud of who you are and what you do.” I didn’t quite understand what that meant at the time, but now that I’m coaching, I think about it everyday!

Being a coach’s kid has its perks and its disappointments. The perks: all the free shirts, free road trips on the yellow dog with dad, the waterboy/ball boy/biggest cheerleader of the team, hospitality rooms, coaches clinics, I could go on and on! Big perk-Everybody knew you, pretty cool I thought, but as I realized later (big disappointment) EVERYBODY knew me! I couldn’t get away with anything!

After every home game, win or lose, all the coaches and their families came to the house for post game festivities. For me, it was the highlight of the week! I got to hang out with other coaches’ kids! If you’re a coach’s kid, you get it. You have your friends, and then you have your coach’s kid friends. Growing up, these are NOT the same. Kids that understood being a coach’s kid. Kids that understood the work, the time, the energy, the thrill of victory and the sting of defeat that you knew would last for at least another week. It is only until later that I finally realized that these post game festivities was not to just celebrate the wins and losses, but rather to de-stress, relax, lean on each other, and see a bond form that other families don’t understand.

The hours dad used to work on Sunday, made for great mother-son bonding time, but I always wondered what dad was doing and the masterful game plan he was coming up with to defeat the #1 team in the state, because there wasn’t a doubt in my young mind that my dad had come up with the game plan that was going to shock the state! Problem was, we weren’t top 10, top 15, top anything! Again, something I didn’t understand at the time. Then came the disappointment of not beating the #1 team, the tears I cried, and the quiet time dad used to have in his chair late, late at night analyzing every call, every kid, every play of the game. But through the tears I cried, dad never wavered. When the 4th quarter ended, regardless if we lost by 1 or 100, that was my dad, my coach! I was a proud coach’s kid!

As time passed, I was so lucky to be coached by dad in high school. Even cooler though, coaching on the same sideline on the same headset frequency with him. A year I will NEVER forget. My first year of coaching, I was 22 years old, again in small town America, where football was the ONLY show in town. As I look back on it, I didn’t have a clue what I was doing coaching wise. I had played high school at a prestigious football program in our state and played four years of D2 ball, so I felt I was ready to coach. WRONG! This whole coaching gig was a completely different ball game. I don’t remember our record, but I do remember my first year of coaching and it was with my dad! It doesn’t get any better! I saw my dad in a completely different light. As offensive coordinator, he was in a leadership role for the offense. Placing coaches and kids in the best position possible to get a W! For years, I had viewed him as the man of OUR house. A husband, a father. Sure, there were times when kids stayed the night with us, but as a young pup, I didn’t realize in small town America that some of these kids didn’t know where or who dad was. Didn’t know if they were going to eat dinner that night after practice or if someone was going to help them with their homework. My mom and dad were married. I had a roof over my head, shirt on my back, and food in my belly and loved sleeping in my own bed. Why would anyone want to stay the night with us, especially after being taught and coached by my dad since 8:00am…I see it now and it has changed my view on life as a husband, a father, a teacher, and a coach.

Coaching with him, it was now time that I viewed my dad in a coaching role, because I was right next to him in the same assistant coach capacity. Words can’t describe how cool that really is. Fighting, scratching, and doing whatever it took to prepare our kids to give them a chance to win. I saw my dad in a leadership role, and definitely don’t forget his mentorship (and a few……ok, a lot of butt chewings), but it made me a better man and a better coach.

This story could go on and on…..and on. There are so many memories I have of my dad and his coaching days. As I get older supporting a family, teaching our youth of America, coaching our young men to be the best they can be on and off the field, I think everyday of my dad and his leadership and mentorship. Everyday I wake up, I hope to make the same impact that my father made on me. I hope that one day people can say to my son, “You’re Ty’s boy.” Why do I hope this? Because the greatest/coolest feeling in the world is when I speak with some one, introduce myself, and get the response, “You’re Andy’s boy.” YES SIR, I AM!

One of the greatest things in the world is being a coach’s kid. It has molded me into who I am today. I can’t speak on being a college coach’s kid, only a high school perspective. I know there are tons of other stories out there about their dad being on the road for weeks and never coming home to get the perfect recruit that is going to take your program to the next level. No, I only speak of small town America, where high school football is king, and fortunately, but also unfortunately can make a school and town flourish or go down in the dumps. It takes pride, confidence, and thick skin to be a coach’s kid. Even when things are going great, there is/was sure to be somebody that didn’t agree with how the football team was being run, and again in a small town, you’re sure to hear all about it.

But don’t ever forget, “You stand up. Don’t let them see you sweat. Be proud of who you are and what you do.”