We don't just cover the North Bay. We live here.
Did You Know? In the first 10 days of the North Bay fire, nearly 1.5 million people used their mobile devices to visit our sites.
Already a subscriber?
Wow! You read a lot!
Reading enhances confidence, empathy, decision-making, and overall life satisfaction. Keep it up! Subscribe.
Already a subscriber?
Oops, you're out of free articles.
Until next month, you can always look over someone's shoulder at the coffee shop.
Already a subscriber?
We don't just cover the North Bay. We live here.
Did You Know? In the first 10 days of the North Bay fire, we posted 390 stories about the fire. And they were shared nearly 137,000 times.
Already a subscriber?
Supporting the community that supports us.
Obviously you value quality local journalism. Thank you.
Already a subscriber?
Oops, you're out of free articles.
We miss you already! (Subscriptions start at just 99 cents.)
Already a subscriber?

The "Follow This Story" feature will notify you when any articles related to this story are posted.

When you follow a story, the next time a related article is published — it could be days, weeks or months — you'll receive an email informing you of the update.

If you no longer want to follow a story, click the "Unfollow" link on that story. There's also an "Unfollow" link in every email notification we send you.

This tool is available only to subscribers; please make sure you're logged in if you want to follow a story.



Please note: This feature is available only to subscribers; make sure you're logged in if you want to follow a story.


Some say the hardest job in sports is coaching your kid.

Wrong, said Cardinal Newman baseball coach T.J. McMahon.

“It’s probably the other way,” he said. “The hardest thing is to be coached by your dad.”

McMahon should know. He’s coached his son, Chris, since the earliest days of T-ball and now through Chris’ final year in high school. T.J. McMahon was a coach at Newman from the time Chris was born so the father-son duo have been a dugout staple for 18 years.

But that doesn’t make it any easier to suit up for dad.

“They are under a microscope more, not by other coaches or players, but by parents,” McMahon said. “Their playing time, why are they in there? They are going to have to work harder than everybody else. It’s unfair, but it’s the way it is.”

And then there’s the blurring of boundaries — does a latent argument at home get played out at practice? Or a bad outing get hashed over ad infinitum at the dinner table?

“It’s kind of hard,” Chris McMahon said. “Is he in the dad role or is he in the coach’s role when he’s talking to me about baseball at home? Should I talk to him like he’s my dad or he’s my coach?”

And Chris feels the pressure of a kid who shares the same last name as the coach.

“I’ve always wondered if people think I’m playing because my dad is the coach,” he said. “If I’m not performing well and I’m still in the lineup are people saying, ‘He’s only in the lineup because he’s the coach’s son.’?”

It’s an added wrinkle in the relationship between athletes and coaches that can shift, strain and hit bumps — much like parenting.

Analy’s Jeff Ogston gets it. Like T. J. McMahon, he’s coached his son, Devon, from T-ball through this, Devon’s senior season for the Tigers.

“It’s not always the easiest, smoothest road,” Jeff Ogston said.

For years in youth baseball, Ogston had to work to keep his dad self separate from his coach self.

“I can leave stuff at home but for the longest time, I had a hard time leaving baseball stuff at baseball,” he said.

And then there are the murmurs of nepotism.

Ogston said he knows that some may think his kid’s in the lineup because of his last name, regardless of his talents on the field. He laughs because Devon meets every stereotype of “Daddy Ball” — he’s the Tigers’ lead-off hitter and starting shortstop.

So he’s overcompensated, been a little harder on Devon than the next guy and checked his lineup ideas with assistants to make sure he’s not playing favorites.

When Devon was a sophomore, Jeff Ogston turned to the seniors on the squad and asked them to fill out a hypothetical starting lineup. Who would they like to see in there? To a man, the seniors said Devon deserved the starting shortstop position.

“I was really grateful for that,” Devon said of both his teammates’ belief and the alleviation of concern that the move was based on favoritism.

Devon said his dad has clearly pushed him harder than other guys. But he’s thankful.

“I know he knows what he’s talking about,” he said.

Chris McMahon was given the choice in his youth ball days — did he want dad to coach? He could have always said no, but he never did.

“Out of all the coaches, I would rather play for my dad,” he said.

And it was no question Chris would play for Newman. He’s been the bat boy for the Cardinals since he could walk.

“Christopher grew up on the baseball field even before he could play,” his mom, Kelly McMahon, said. “He was 2 years old, sitting in the dugout with the kids and he would watch the game and he knew his job. Even before he could play, he was part of baseball.”

Chris McMahon didn’t start for the Cardinals last year, but in his senior campaign he has become Newman’s go-to guy on the mound.

T.J. McMahon said he leans on his cadre of assistant coaches on lineups, instruction and decisions.

“Last year he wasn’t a starter for me,” T.J. McMahon said. “I have tried to talk to my coaches, ‘Hey, let’s make sure I’m not going the other way, that I’m not harder on him or expecting more.’ ”

“I totally respect my coaching staff and their knowledge,” he said. “The decisions are not just coming from me.”

But there is nothing that the best team of assistants or supporters can do to alleviate the stress of being both a coach and a parent during a high stress at-bat or defensive sequence.

“You are coaching the moment, but you are always their biggest fan, you always want them to be successful every opportunity they get,” McMahon said.

And for all of the headaches and mini-heartbreaks that can happen when a coach is also a parent, there are gifts. Probably No. 1 among them? Time.

“For T.J. to see Chris grow on and off the field, from age 4 to now and spend so much time together is huge,” Kelly McMahon said. “They have spent so much time together, which is a huge blessing.”

Jeff Ogston agreed.

“It’s been great. I wouldn’t trade it for the world,” he said. “As much as all that other stuff sucks to hear, I get to be with him every day, I get to watch him play, see what he does best and share his passion. Right now, at 17, he’s not calling me to hang out. This is something you can’t buy.”

Both Chris McMahon and Devon Ogston are looking at colleges that will give them a chance to keep playing ball.

But for the first time in nearly forever, both will suit up for someone other than dad.

“There is a little bit of sadness,” Devon Ogston said. “I like playing for him. He’s a good coach. I have mixed emotions.”

So, too, does dad.

“It is bittersweet,” Jeff Ogston said. “I’m looking forward to it for him, I’m looking forward to it for me. I think we’ve done well.”

You can reach staff columnist Kerry Benefield at 526-8671 or kerry.benefield@pressdemocrat.com, on Twitter @benefield and on Instagram at kerry.benefield. Podcasting on iTunes “Overtime with Kerry Benefield.”

Show Comment