Behind the Lines: Growing with Play

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“No matter how many touchdowns he scores, no matter how many rebounds he shoots and no matter how many runs he wins, it won’t be because of talent, it’ll be because you’re his. father and that he received special treatment.” I have heard my late friend and mentor coach Dick Cotton say this often to young coaches with young children.

He was talking about the little jealous comments behind the back that happen when a coach has a talented son or daughter.

Dick knew that with his three adult children. Mark, Brent and Beth were all great athletes, Mark a football player, Beth a volleyball and basketball star, and Brent perhaps the best of the three, a Division I basketball player.

The reasons are obvious for people to make such foolish assumptions, as they witness it in little league, junior football, club hockey, soccer, and sports like American volleyball. Sports with merit, but sports that too often have less-than-talented kids playing shortstop, pitching, quarterbacking, net-playing, or lifting the ball when better girls or boys are seated behind them.

It’s been that way since the sport began in earnest and will no doubt continue as long as mom and dad’s sensitive egos are tied vicariously to their kids on the pitch or in the field.

You will notice that pool, track, course or mat are not mentioned, these sports do not lend themselves to life vicariously since, as my friend Tim Ervin often says, “The clock doesn’t care who is your father. ”

Which brings me to a handful of outstanding football players in Fremont County this season who happen to be the sons of head and assistant coaches. These five boys would be stars whether their fathers call games or not, each of them would be an asset to any program in the state, and many of them will compete at the top level in one or more sports.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t equally talented kids whose parents aren’t coaches, there certainly are.

Being a coach doesn’t mean your son or daughter will be an outstanding athlete, but it does give them a leg up on other kids. Despite the jealous gossip, coaches are tougher on their own kids than they are on anyone else’s kid. It may not be the case with pampered pets in youth sports, but by the time they hit college high school, all that proxy favoritism quickly ends in the harsh light of reality.

There was perhaps no better example of this than a few Friday nights ago in Goshen County. The Wind River Cougars had a fabulous football team this season, but lost three of their last four games largely due to injuries to a few key players.

For those who don’t believe one or two players make a big difference, all I have to say is take a look at the Class 3-A State Championship game where Star Valley beat Cody 14-7. Don’t call it an upset, Star Valley is good, but without the 6-foot-3, 195-pound senior Luke Talich at quarterback and free safety, Cody wasn’t the same team. Cody has been terrific, a terrific 23 straight, coming into last Friday’s championship game. With him the Broncs win 35-25 at Afton during the regular season, without him, and still loaded with 22 seniors, Star Valley was doing better.

Without quarterback Chris Burke and running back Jaycee Herbert, the Cougars were left with only one offensive choice in junior Cooper Frederick, the son of head coach Rod Frederick. The elder Frederick and his team’s solution was to give Cooper the ball 61 times against the Southeast Cyclones. Cooper set a state record with 549 rushing yards and the Cougars earned a 46-38 playoff victory. Try giving away another parent’s child that many carry and you may find yourself in the superintendent’s office Monday morning with potential litigation in today’s crazy world of snowplow parenting.

Two other running backs come to mind, not quite the same as they entered the playoffs with their teams intact.

Pehton Truempler, the son of Shoshoni head coach Tony Truempler, is a football player, that’s as succinct a comment as possible. Pehton will hit you from the moment you get off the bus until you are back on the freeway. He punished would-be tacklers with a violent running style that’s hard to describe unless you witnessed it. Yes, he gets the ball back in key situations, as he should. All the opponents in the stands simply don’t understand football.

If you were to mix Cooper Frederick’s ability to read the blocks and rush into a seam with the devastating running style of Pehton Truempler, you’d have a good approximation of Wyatt Trembly running the ball for the Dubois Rams. Wyatt’s father, David Trembly, is Fremont County’s longest-serving head coach and has largely adapted to the wild and open style of 6-a-side football. His son is a big part of that success. By the way, Truempler and Trembly are state champion wrestlers, and their dads are head wrestling coaches, that’s no coincidence.

You don’t have to be a head coach to have a talented athlete, sometimes having another coach’s son on the team can also be a godsend.

Two Fremont County quarterbacks were among the best in the state last season with Alex Mills and Brenon Stauffenberg. Both boys might be better basketball players, but you can’t argue with their ability to throw the ball, read defenses and destroy opposing passing attacks from the safe position.

Alex, the son of Shoshoni assistant coach Max Mills, and volleyball head coach Christina Mills grew up around the game, as did Brenon, the son of Lander operations manager Serol Stauffenberg, and assistant coach volleyball player Tiffany Stauffenberg. Brenon and his sister Demi, now a college volleyball player, didn’t have much of a choice growing up in the gymnasium where their mom and dad served as head college coaches, as did Alex and his younger brother Braxton.

As current Dickinson State University football coach and athletic director, Pete Stanton told me when he was DSU’s head track coach, and our son Brian was a hurdler and decathlete: I love having coaches’ children on the team. They know how to work, they understand the sport and no matter how much I force them, it’s way less than what they got from mom and dad,” Pete said.

It goes beyond athletics. Have you ever noticed how well children sang and played when mom or dad was a musician? Have you ever wondered why the speech coach kids are state champion speakers or debaters and go home with armfuls of trophies?

This is not because of preferential treatment, but rather the result of somewhat higher demands than our current soft culture allows for someone else’s child.

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