Coaches contrast, but never confict Girls lacrosse: Gay Petrlik and Emily Walker, mother and daughter, are coaching Hammond this season. Their team goals may be the same, but their metholology differs.

March 29, 1998|By STAN RAPPAPORT | STAN RAPPAPORT,SUN STAFF

To Gay Petrlik and Emily Walker, the coaches of Hammond's girls lacrosse team, it is an opportunity of a lifetime. A chance for a mother and daughter to work and coach together.

To others, it's an opportunity to tease.

"The teachers joke about it," said Walker, a first-year psychology and American government instructor at Hammond. "They say 'This is the longest we've ever seen anybody go without cutting the umbilical cord. We don't understand how the two of you get along so well.' "

And that, in turn, amazes Walker.

"How do you not get along with your mother?" she said. "I don't understand that concept."

They are more than mother and daughter - they are best friends with similar views on mostly everything.

"We have never had a disagreement," said Petrlik, who has lunch with Walker every other day. "We talk things out. It's always been that way. We are very much alike."

But not when it comes to coaching.

"Our coaching styles are very different, and that's probably the best thing that could have happened," said Petrlik, whose team advanced to the state tournament for the first time last season. "I have a more of a nurturing, mothering kind of approach, and Emily is all business.

"There are times when I have to remind her that these are children and we need to lighten up. On the other side, when I want to back off and say I'm not so sure we should be pushing that hard, she says, 'Wait a minute, we're dealing with really good athletes here who are smart and can do this. Let's push them.'

"So it's been the best of both worlds, I think, for the kids, and that's one reason why they are blossoming like they are. I think they feel there's a lot of support out there from both of us and that we really care about them and are serious about the program."

Walker was a three-sport athlete at Howard High before graduating in 1992. A tenacious, lefthanded player who could score, Walker earned a scholarship to UMBC in lacrosse.

"She was just a natural in lacrosse," said Petrlik.

Walker has had to learn that not everyone has the same determination or skills that she had.

"When I'm coaching, I expect them to get things much quicker than they sometimes do," Walker said. "By the fifth time I've repeated something and they aren't doing it, that's it for me. The other day, I just yelled at them, and she [Petrlik] said, 'Now they're just children, you have to be careful.' "

Said senior Amanda Almon, a first-team All-County selection last season: "Mrs. Petrlik tends to be more nice. Mrs. Walker tells it like it is."

Walker, who uses her experience as a college player to teach individual skills, said she is "tough but fair" and doesn't apologize for her approach. It is how she played the game, and how she wants her team to play.

"I'm younger and more aggressive," said Walker, who is sitting next to her mother. "And no offense, not that you're old, but my mom has coached for so many years that she has learned a tremendous amount of patience that I just don't have. And that comes from being a player. For the most part, this game was never difficult for me."

Petrlik welcomes her daughter's zest for the sport.

She's brought in a new, fresh approach," said Petrlik, who has taught physical education and health at Hammond for 16 years. "She's really lived this game, so she has incredible enthusiasm for it."

Their official titles may say head coach and assistant coach, but to them there is no difference.

"We have an equal playing field out there," said Walker.

"That is true," said Petrlik, whose team lost its season opener, 12-9, Wednesday at North Carroll. "When I brought her on board I told her that I wanted her to feel that she could open up her mouth and say anything she wanted to say. And she does. But it's all to their [the players] benefit."

Almon agreed.

"She [Walker] demands more, but it's very helpful," Almon said.

Walker, who has been married for two years and turns 24 next month, began substitute teaching at Hammond last winter in special education. The days substituting turned into weeks, and the weeks became months. In June, she was offered a permanent position.

Walker helped coach the lacrosse team last year and also was Petrlik's assistant on last season's field hockey squad.

"I was so overjoyed to have her here," Petrlik said. "It's such an unusual experience for any parent to be able to work with their child."

Walker couldn't be any happier, as well.

"I'm the middle child, and so was she, so we've always had that in common," Walker said. "We always got along.

"We've had lots of people say, 'I don't know how you all do it because I could never work with my mother,' especially the younger teachers here," said Walker. "It's not only been a piece of cake, it's been so much fun. We have had a wonderful time. We laugh a lot."

And it hasn't gone unnoticed by their players.

"They always seem like they're having fun. They love coaching us," Almon said. "We have fun with them, and they have fun together. It's been a great experience."

Pub Date: 3/29/98

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