sports psychologist & clinical psychology

WHEN DAD IS THE COACH: DUAL ROLES CAN TEST TANDEM

The Daily Camera – Aug 19, 2007 – Kyle Ringo – Growing up in Salem, Ore., and later in Boise, Idaho, Cody Hawkins and his three siblings loved playing games with their father, Dan, when he would come home from his job as a college football coach.

Those games rarely involved the pigskin.

They played wiffle ball in the backyard. Sometimes it was basketball in the driveway, where Dan Hawkins earned the nickname “Shot Doctor” from his children during games of H-O-R-S-E or P-I-G.

Their favorite activity with dad was a living room rodeo.

“He would get on his hands and knees and all the kids would put their arms around him and he would try and buck us off,” Cody Hawkins said. “We used to call him ‘Bad Medicine.’

“We’d be at the dinner table and say, ‘Is Bad Medicine in town?’ If he was too tired, he’d be like, ‘No, Bad Medicine ain’t here.’ Other times he’d be like, ‘Oh, Bad Medicine is rolling in.’ Then the whole family would get in the living room and we’d get on Dad’s back and try to hang on for as long as we could.”

Cody Hawkins has always considered his dad his role model. So when Dan Hawkins decided to leave Boise State after five years as head coach there and take on a new challenge at Colorado, his son, an undefeated high school quarterback, followed after his senior year.

They both suffered through a 2-10 season last fall in Boulder, with Cody in a redshirt year as a true freshman while his father tried to change the culture and mentality of the program he inherited. Now two weeks from the start of their second season as Buffs, the father is poised to name his son the starting quarterback today.

Cody Hawkins entered the second scrimmage of preseason practices Saturday with a slight edge over junior college transfer Nick Nelson. Both quarterbacks’ performances were a mixed bag of good and bad decision-making in the scrimmage.

In short, nothing happened that would indicate Cody had lost his lead.

Dan Hawkins has said all along the final decision will be made by offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich after a meeting between all the coaches today.

If Helfrich does select Cody Hawkins, it will mark the sixth time in the modern history of major college football that a father-son tandem has led a program as head coach and starting quarterback, according to research done by the CU sports information department.

Some of those who have worked together in college football as father and son and coach and quarterback say it was one of the most treasured parts of their lives. But it also comes with tough challenges.

Unless they are fortunate enough to win every game � Cody Hawkins is 59-0 as a starting quarterback � the Hawkins tandem will probably take a few jabs from fans and critics along the way.

“People will be looking for favoritism,” said Dr. John Murray, a renowned sports-performance psychologist in Palm Beach, Fla. “It’s a huge potential burden to bear. I would think that if anything, coach will be harder on his son on the field and maybe softer on him in family situations away from the field to balance the equation.”

Previous case studies

Fan interference was a regular occurrence for Jim Dickey and son Darrell, who led the Kansas State program to its first bowl game in 1982 after several difficult seasons together. It even happened to Jim Sweeney and son Kevin, whose time together at Fresno State in the mid-1980s was much more successful.

“I’m so happy that I had the courage to do that at a young age â€â€? to make the commitment to go and put yourself in a little bit of a pressure cooker,” Kevin Sweeney said. “It is the greatest gift I’ve gotten because it allowed us to have a tremendous experience and go to battle together on the football field. Now I look at him as one of my very best friends in the whole, wide world.”

Kevin Sweeney left Fresno State after the 1986 season as the leading passer in the history of Division I football with 10,653 yards. He and his father led the Bulldogs to an 11-0-1 record and No. 16 national ranking in 1985.

Jim Sweeney, now 78 and retired after 200 wins in 34 seasons, said the first year was the most difficult because, though his son was highly recruited by nearly every program on the West Coast, he hadn’t proven himself at the college level.

Jim Sweeney recalled taking a phone call from a female caller on his radio show one night during his son’s redshirt freshman year, just after he had named his son the starter.

“She wanted to know, ‘Are we gonna be seeing anyone else besides Kevin Sweeney play?'” Jim Sweeney said. “I said, ‘He’ll be playing as long I’m sleeping with his mother.'”

Distancing themselves

Both Dan and Cody Hawkins have downplayed their father-son relationship since coming to Colorado. Cody Hawkins is the spitting image of his father, right down to the grimace when he gets a question he doesn’t like. He’s been asked about being the coach’s son often lately. Each time he politely muddles through it.

“When I’m out on the practice field, I try to associate with him as little as possible,” he said. “I mean, basically the only time we ever talk is when I screw up. It’s not like he’s calling me out. I’m just one of the guys.”

The coach has repeatedly said his son will never be treated differently than any other player on the roster. And it seems Dan Hawkins is succeeding in this regard.

Nelson, the player with whom Cody Hawkins has been competing in training camp, has said he believes coaches have treated him and the coach’s son fairly and equally. That was Dan Hawkins’ vow on national signing day in 2006 when he was surprised by his son’s national letter of intent.

“From my standpoint it’s not a problem because of my coaching style,” Dan Hawkins said then. “I tend to coach all of my guys like they are my kids.

“He is a talented player, he’s a good kid and he’s a great guy to have around. I think the only drawback that happens is if we’re not playing well, then he is going to catch more criticism than the normal guy would. He’s had to shoulder that, growing up with that last name in Boise. So he’s kind of used to it.”

Good and bad

It took Darrell Dickey a while to get used to the scrutiny he received as the coach’s son when he played for his father, Jim, at Kansas State. His father didn’t make it any easier on him.

Prior to the 1981 season, Jim Dickey decided to make a bold move. He told 13 upperclassmen they would redshirt that season in order to get some of their teammates some experience. The plan was to combine all their experience the following year and see what happened.

The plan eventually propelled the Wildcats to the 1982 Independence Bowl, the first in the program’s history. But Darrell Dickey had to endure the previous season to get there.

“You know, I saw both sides of it,” he said. “I was a below-average quarterback on a very poor football team for a few years. So I caught a lot of flak. My father caught a lot of flak and my mom had to put up with quite a bit of stuff. Then my senior year, I was still a below-average player, but I was on a very good team and we went to the very first bowl game.”

“Everything you hear about the quarterback gets too much credit or too much blame is totally true, but then you just kind of double that because if you happen to be the coach’s son, it’s just more magnified or whatever you want to call it.

“There are those who will say the only reason he’s getting to play is because his dad’s the coach. But I think overall, there are some positives and negatives to doing that. It’s a great experience and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. The positives far outweigh the negatives.”

The Sweeneys and the Dickeys will be paying close attention to the Buffs this season and pulling for the Hawkins family in particular. All of them say they believe Dan and Cody will enjoy the experience and learn a lot from it.

And they all offer one piece of similar advice.

“He’s got to ignore the public,” Jim Sweeney said of Dan Hawkins. “I know that group up in the stands there in Boulder. They’re a little tough on coaches. I just think he ought to obey his heart and do what he thinks is right.”

Dr. John F. Murray is a sports psychologist and clinical psychologist providing sports psychology and counseling services based in Palm Beach, Florida.

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