Dads who were coaches talk about coaching their sons, a Father’s Day wish

Rocky Patchin with his son, Jake

At the same instant, they were each both coach and dad.

And it was a moment that Rocky Patchin, Randy Swilley, Sid Otton, Bill Beattie and Ron Brown will always cherish.

Otton, Tumwater’s football coach since 1974, coached both his sons in football. Beattie did the same at Olympia. Patchin coached his son at North Thurston. Swilley is coaching his son at Yelm.

Brown coached his son in basketball at Centralia.

Now, Ron and his son, Tim Brown, face each other as opposing coaches whenever Centralia and North Thurston play.

“I’d just as soon not coach against him,” said Ron, Centralia’s coach since 1961. “If you happen to win, you feel good for your team. But you feel bad for your son.”

On Sunday, these five coaches will likely reflect on those days as they celebrate Father’s Day. For them, it could also be called Coach’s Day.

Last fall, just before Yelm and Tumwater played in football, Otton waved Swilley over to tell him something.

“I was expecting him to say something about football,” Swilley said. “But he told me to cherish this time. He said it’s the best time in your life with your son.”

Swilley’s son, Jacob, is an all-league running back who started last year as a sophomore. Being both the dad and the coach raises some unique challenges.

“There’s the dad side of you. So, I worry about him,” Swilley said. “I think about all the things a parent thinks about.”

But as the head coach and offensive coordinator, Swilley sometimes finds himself in an awkward situation.

“I played football all those years and never really cared about my body at all,” said Swilley, an all-league defensive lineman at UPS. “Now, I know what I put my parents through. Except now I’m the one calling the plays and I’m more responsible.”

When Patchin’s three daughters and son were little, he’d bring them all to practice. They’d dive into blocking dummies they piled up on the sideline. Or they’d toss the football around. Sometimes they’d simple watch Dad coach.

“I loved it,” Rocky said. “I’d get to bring my kids to work. I loved having them around me.”

Eventually, his daughters all took their turns being the team’s water girl for the Rams’ home football games. Jake got to be the team’s ballboy when he turned 9, running a football onto the field between plays for all the team’s home games.

“One thing I’ve always done is always include the family,” Rocky said.

Even when his children were too little to be on the sidelines, they’d be in the stands with their mom, Karen. Rocky, North Thurston’s coach since 1991 and has had 16 winning seasons, has always mixed football and family.

“I keep hearing that so-and-so quit coaching so he could spend time with the family,” Rocky said. “Well, that never entered my mind. We kept the families involved. That prevents burnout.”

Jake’s roles changed over the years, going from little kid goofing around on the sideline during practice to being an all-league center his junior and seniors years. He always liked hanging around his dad.

“It was cool being coached by my dad,” said Jake, who played his last game for the Rams in the fall of 2005. “It adds a whole different experience.”

Besides practice and games, Jake was also at a lot of the coaches’ chalk talks. When his dad and assistant coaches watched video of that week’s opponent and put together scouting reports, Jake was in the chair next to his dad.

Whether they were winning games or losing games, Rocky said being together brought them together. For advice on how to best handle being a coach/dad, Rocky talked with Otton and Beattie.

“I just wanted to see how they handled it,” Rocky said.

At practice, Jake called his dad “Coach” and, on occasion, “Dad,” depending on the situation. If he needed a ride home, it was “Dad.” If it was a question about a blocking assignment, it was “Coach.” At Tumwater, Brad Otton always called his coach “Dad.” Sid, the state’s all-time winningest football coaches, coached both his sons, Brad and Tim. Tim grew from the skinny quarterback into a 6-foot-6, 235-pound quarterback who led USC to a 1996 Rose Bowl victory.

About those days Sid coached his two sons, he said, “Those were some of my favorite days in coaching. Coaching your son is a great thing.”

Brad has two sons and a daughter. He got out of coaching college football five years ago and opened a line of pizza restaurants. But when his sons are in high school, he figures he’ll get back into coaching.

“I want to give my sons an experience like I had,” Brad said. “I realized how lucky I was playing for Tumwater and my dad.”

Five years ago, Rocky felt different heading into spring workouts for his football team. Instead of being excited, he was almost indifferent.

“I didn’t know what was wrong,” he said.

Then he figured it out. His son, who had been a part of his team for so many years, first as the little kid on the sideline and then as the all-league lineman, was gone. He wasn’t going to be a part of the team anymore.

“I was having a hard time getting going again,” Rocky said.

At first, he thought his emotional lull was because of the hip surgery he in January of that year. Then someone asked if he was going to miss not coaching his son. That was it.

“You know, there’s really nothing like coaching your own son,” Rocky said. “I loved every minute of it.”

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