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.