Quality family time

Parents, kids involved in coach-player relationships say pros outweigh cons

November 05, 2008|By Glenn Graham | Glenn Graham,glenn.graham@baltsun.com

McDonogh girls soccer coach Maurice Boylan knows making difficult decisions on roster cuts are part of the job. Last year, one decision was especially tough.

He cut his daughter, Lindsay, then a freshman.

When she tried out for the team again in August, Boylan got choked up for a different reason. This time, she made the team.

"I brought Lindsay over to talk to her, and ... I just started crying like a baby," said Boylan, in his 18th season. "I'm getting a rush thinking about it right now."

There are obvious challenges for the Boylans and other parents and kids who have a coach-player relationship. Among them is the possibility that the coaches show favoritism toward their children. Conversely, coaches might combat that perception by being too tough on their children.

"There's a fine line where you have to be careful," said River Hill girls soccer coach Brian Song, who has daughters Amy and Kellie on the team. "I don't treat my kids any different than any other players. I take their concerns just as with anybody else. And then we leave it out on the soccer field. When we get home, then we talk about it as father and daughters."

The opportunity to bond is the chief reward, said Dr. John Walkup, an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral science at Johns Hopkins.

"I think the positives are that kids and parents sometimes have shared interest, and any time people can spend time together and around those shared interests is terrific," Walkup said. "That's the thing - the more time spent, the more shared interest, the better."

After the River Hill girls won their second straight state title last year - an emotional double-overtime victory over Eastern Tech - Amy Song, now a senior defender, enjoyed a highlight moment with her father that she will never forget.

"After we won, the first person I ran to was my dad," Amy said. "I felt like I wanted to be the one to give him that first hug."

Kellie Song, then a sophomore midfielder, wasn't far behind, with all three embracing soon after.

Soccer has also enriched the relationship between Loch Raven boys coach Joe Fiedler and his son, Tim, a senior sweeper.

"It's been great having him as a coach because we go home and soccer is something we relate to," Tim said.

"It's something that me and him enjoy doing together."

On the field, Coach Fiedler says he is tough on all his players because he expects a lot from them, and his son is no exception. Anyone who was at the Raiders' game against Owings Mills last season will verify that Tim does not receive special treatment.

"We clashed. We just weren't seeing eye-to-eye on something, and I benched him for a good part of the game," said Joe Fiedler, who has led Loch Raven to the state championship game the past two years.

"That really revved him up because he came back in and scored the game-wining goal, and we went on to score a bunch more in a matter of five minutes. After the game, we sat down and talked about it, and then it was over."

For several coaches and their kids, this season brings additional sentimental value.

Fallston field hockey standout Lindsey Puckett, whose mother, Alice, has led the program to 10 state titles, has been sporting Cougars orange since she was a toddler. Growing up, Lindsey would watch games next to her mom on the bench, and sometimes she would run the post-game laps with the team.

Next year, Lindsey Puckett will turn in her orange for University of Maryland red.

"I just remember a lot of orange - that's all I really owned. It was really cool to experience that, and it was fun to look forward to high school because I always knew I would be part of it," said Lindsey, a four-year starter at midfield who led the Cougars to the state title last season.

Lindsey is excited and nervous about her venture to Maryland, and she's a bit overwhelmed at the prospect of playing for a coach not named Puckett. She told her mother, "I miss you already."

Last week during field hockey practice at Atholton, a few players stayed after for extra work in the circle and penalty strokes.

As the players began to leave, coach Jim Brown found himself alone with his daughter, Kelly, a senior midfielder, cleaning up before heading home.

Three years ago, Brown took over a struggling program that had won just three games the year before, bringing a boost of energy and organization. After a four-win season in 2006, the Raiders went 11-6 last season and took a 10-3 mark into this year's playoffs, with Kelly the standout player in the middle.

"We were picking up about 75 balls in and around the cage, and I said to her: 'You know what, we only have a few more of these sessions left.' I hate to say it already, but it was like pre-nostalgic already. ... "Cat's in the Cradle" is just oh so true," he said.

The moment hit Kelly, too.

"I've loved all the years he has coached me. And I've loved being able to talk to him about the team, having him share thoughts with me," she said.

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