Finding time for family during football season can be a difficult proposition for any football coach, particularly when there are young children at home. Sharing the football experience with your kids can be beneficial for all parties involved, including your players.
Stroud High (Okla.) coach Chris Elerick enjoyed doing the “typical coach’s kid stuff” growing up as the son of Oklahoma Coaches Association Hall of Fame coach Phil Elerick.
Chris started by chasing tees after kickoffs, later became a water boy, then a ball boy, then a stat-keeper, and finally a high school football player on his father’s team.
“For me, it was a great way to grow up,” Chris Elerick said. “It’s really a part of why I enjoyed raising my kids in the profession.”
Like many coaches across the country, Elerick now shares the football experience with his own children. Last fall, he coached his twin sons, Grant and Drew, for the final time. Both seniors will play at Louisiana’s Northeast State in the fall.
“At 47 years old, being a coach’s kid and a head coach for 24 years, I start to think about what a special professional this is,” Elerick said. “It was a special time getting to coach my own kids. That’s something that will always be special to me.”
Elerick didn’t wait until his sons were in high school to begin sharing his profession with them. He remembers his sons as first-graders walking from the elementary school across his practice field to get his wife’s office. Sometimes, they’d stick around for five or 10 minutes and watch their father in action.
“I’d give them a high-five on the way,” Elerick said.
Elerick’s kids later followed the same path he did as a coach’s son – from water boy to ball boy to stat-keeper to high school player.
Brantley County High (Ga.) coach Geoff Cannon is going through the early stages of that process now, with three sons in elementary and middle school and a 3-year-old daughter to boot. His oldest son, an eighth-grader, is the first one to run into the woods to chase a ball that is kicked through the uprights. His youngest son, 9, is a water boy.
“I think it’s important to communicate to my coaches on staff that children are ALWAYS welcome here,” Cannon said. “They’re welcome in the field house offices and on the field. If they want a job on Friday night, they can have one. I do that because I know how important my family is to me.”
Cannon also allows his boys to go inside the huddle during practice, hang out in the locker room, and ride the team bus to and from games. The children of his assistant coaches are welcome to do the same.
“I know that the guys who work with me want to have that same flexibility,” Cannon said. “They’re away from their kids just as much as I am, and I know it’s just as hard for them.”
The Impact on the Players
Cannon and Elerick understand that exposing children to high school football at an early age comes with some risks, but they feel the tradeoff is that their players learn to be more respectful and responsible around children.
“Unselfishly, I think it’s vital for young men to see me interact with my children and wife,” Cannon said. “It measures out some responsibility when kids are in the locker room. My children can hear what they say, and they understand the importance of that. It matters what kind of music they listen to.”
Just as Cannon relies on his players to model responsible behavior, Elerick expects his coaches to model good family values.
“I want them to see us being husbands, fathers and good members of the community,” Elerick said. “It’s a good thing to say you want them to grow up to be good Dads. It’s better to show them.”