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how to handle when coach is star player's parent

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Dan Robrish, Oct 15, 2012.

  1. Dan Robrish

    Dan Robrish New Member

    Hello, all --

    I haven't logged into this forum in a long time, but I could use some advice. I publish a small-town weekly in Pennsylvania and of course I have heavy coverage of high school football at this time of year.

    The football team's head coach is the father of one of the quarterbacks. I have consistently mentioned the relationship in stories that mention both of them because I don't want to look like I'm covering something up. This morning, I got an angry e-mail message from the player's mother/coach's wife saying that her son is his own person and that I am being disrespectful by mentioning the relationship.

    I'm sure nearly everyone who covers high school sports has encountered this situation. How do you handle this and why?


    Dan Robrish
    Editor and Publisher
    The Elizabethtown Advocate
  2. LongTimeListener

    LongTimeListener Well-Known Member

    Why do you need to mention it in every story?
  3. CharBroiled

    CharBroiled New Member

    I would think if it's a blatant disregard for a better or more talented player, the relationship would be newsworthy since it has been established.

    Our local high school's basketball coach will be beginning his second year with his sophomore son who starts at point guard. His son also started as a freshman and the talk around the community is the coach only got the job to coach his son in high school. We never make mention of the relationship.
  4. Dan Robrish

    Dan Robrish New Member

    To answer LongTimeListener's question, I've been doing it out of an abundance of caution, though I'm rethinking.

    I posted the same question to the listserv of the International Society of Weekly Newspaper Editors and one of the replies was, "When people read the same last name twice in the story, they will wonder if they are related. And, as we all know, some people are reading for the first time."
  5. LongTimeListener

    LongTimeListener Well-Known Member

    What are the chances that in your readership a person doesn't know that the coach and player are related?

    Also I'm not sure why it matters.
  6. reformedhack

    reformedhack Active Member

    Mention it if context is important (e.g., the coach benches a better player in favor of his son, the coach chooses his son to try the game-winning play, etc.). Ignore it if it isn't.

    The mother probably has a point. Put it in print often enough and readers will wonder what you're implying -- even if you're not implying anything at all. In prep sports, parent-coach/child-player situations occur frequently -- or at least so frequently that they're nothing unusual. Don't go out of your way to belabor this one.
  7. Norrin Radd

    Norrin Radd New Member

    Ignore the mother's message.

    This is not a big deal.
  8. huntsie

    huntsie Active Member

    Agree. Refer to the relationship only if its important in the context of the story. You don't have to write "Quarterback Joe Cleats, son of head coach Tom Cleats" passed for six touchdowns as Hometown High beat the visiting Out of Town Evildoers 66-0..." One has nothing to do with the other
  9. GidalKaiser

    GidalKaiser Member

    Both Huntsie and Norrin Radd make good points. For the past four seasons, the head football coach's son at Pretty Good High has been the starting QB. I only make mention of it if coach A talks about his son, Player A. I mentioed it once in each season preview I did from 2009 to now about the team, but did it in a casual way. What I like it that Coach A criticizes his own kid when he makes bad decisions on the field.
  10. Boom_70

    Boom_70 Well-Known Member

    Hit on the mother and come back and tell us how it went. Otherwise it seems like overkill to mention the coach / QB relationship in every story. Since you are a local paper you have to assume that interested readers already know about the relationship.
  11. writingump

    writingump Member

    Had this about 15 years ago with a volleyball team. Only this one was easy because the coach, besides her daughter being the team's best player (she went on to play at Furman), also happened to have won three state championships in her career and was widely regarded as being a better person than a coach. So this wasn't nearly as sticky as this situation seems to have become.
    As far as the writing part, you mention it only if it's relevant. You don't have to go out of your way to note it every time you write about the team.
  12. LongTimeListener

    LongTimeListener Well-Known Member

    The stereotype is that the kid plays only because he has Daddy to give him a spot, but in my experience and observation the kid is usually one of the best players on the team, or at the very least he is deserving of the role he has. It's wildly different in the lower ages especially as travel ball/select teams have grown, and in those areas I usually assume the kid isn't as good as his role on the team would indicate. But a high school coach is not one who is going to tank a season for feelings.

    The other stereotype is the little white "coach's kid" type, but there is probably in truth a lot of benefit to that too. Think of how much private coaching the kid has had over the years, at a very high level compared with what the rest of the dads are probably teaching their boys.
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