The responsibility of being the child of a coach can be difficult. When times are good, the player is just another member of the team. However when times are tough, scrutiny abounds.
Recently there has been much criticism of the playing of John Lickliter, the son of Iowa Men's Basketball coach, Todd Lickliter. An argument is that John isn't good enough to play at the Big Ten level. Another is that Todd plays his son too much making it difficult for him to compete in the rugged Big Ten.
No matter what the level of competition, when times may be rough, the role of the coaches son is a difficult one. The son is an easy target. It gives fans another person to vent their anger at for disappointing times. And the same fans can criticize the coach for favortism. It happens at all levels.
A year ago was my first year of coaching T Ball, allowing me the opportunity to coach my son Colin. When I was his age, my dad was the girls basketball coach at our high school. My two sisters were each coached by him, making me jealous not getting that same chance. But I did whatever I could to assist him at practice as well as on the bench. My sisters didn't want to disappoint their father and would practice more than some on the team. One would put their letter jacket, stocking cap and mittens on and get some extra shooting in on the gravel driveway outside our home. Of course having our dad as the coach, we also had the access to the school's gym throughout the year. We took it seriously. But when times were tough, my sisters would have to listen to fans and parents complain about their amount of playing time compared to those of the others on the team. Some parents would find any way to vent their frustration. The practice of videotaping games was something new, but the moms and dads quickly learned that they could voice their opposition onto the built in mic on the camera. Of course my dad found the volume button could be used to his advantage as well.
Now was my turn to coach my son and that relationship isn't lost with the younger ages. Before my first game I was to hand out jerseys for every member of the team. Small sizes were #s 1 - 8 and medium sizes were #9 - 14. Without thinking I handed the first jersey to the closest person, which was my son and now for the rest of the year he was #1. By the time the second shirt was handed out I had heard the first comment, "Oh, sure, the coaches son gets #1." And the comments didn't cease there. I was reminded when he would be stationed at the pitcher's position.
The criticism doesn't change at the college level. Todd and John are dealing with it. A satirical story ran on a Des Moines television station on John's talent level. Todd is also dealing with the possible favortism on Todd's part to play his son. If this season had been more successful, there would've been less talk, and satirical pieces such as this one may have brought some smiles to faces rather than frowns. But after years of watching other parent's sons play for his team and those he recrutied, he now has the opportunity to spend time with John, whose playing time should diminish in the following years as Todd builds his team with upcoming recruits. John will continue to be on the bench, travel with the team, and more importantly spend time with his dad that he has missed growing up.
John will continue to hear the criticism. Whether it is from the media, fans, or friends who look for a way vent their anger at the losing record of the team, John will work to improve and play an improved role on the team. And despite this growing experience, do you think John regrets signing up for this? Definitely not. I'm sure he would do it all over again.
(Special thanks to the Des Moines Register for the picture)