Dad

Coaches and athletes share a special and complex relationship.

The best coaches see something you may not see in yourself and push you until that something comes out and is evident for everyone to see. 

I once heard a coach describe his job as walking alongside athletes at times, walking behind them to push them beyond where they think they can go and sometimes walking in front, pulling the athletes along to the spot they need to be.

It’s an intense environment, the coach-athlete relationship.  It’s filled with love, tears, frustration, disappointments and exhilaration.  Sounds a little like parenting, doesn’t it?

For the last two years Payton Harmsen has had the opportunity to play for a coach that pushed her and at the end of practice she could call dad. 

She mentions the eye rolls.  Yup, saw them.  She mentions the competitiveness both she and Bill share.  Yup, that was on full display as well.

Payton, thanks for an inside look at playing for your dad.

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When I think back and reflect on what it was like playing for my dad, the first word that comes to mind is fortunate.

There are not many individuals who can say that he or she have played for his or her dad in high school and college, have gone to three high school state tournaments, and have made it to two college national championship tournaments.

However, no number of big wins or losses, championships or titles won, or records broken would be able to replace our bond behind the scenes.

However, no number of big wins or losses, championships or titles won, or records broken would be able to replace our bond behind the scenes.

Playing for my dad was something special. A common question I have received is: “What’s it like playing for your dad? I could never do what you two do”.

In reality, it’s just something I’ve always known.

In reality, it’s just something I’ve always known. Even at two weeks old I started going to my dad’s games. When I was in grade school, he would sometimes allow me to stick around after school for his high school practices (I would do anything to not have to ride an hour and a half bus ride home).

Eventually when I was in 5th grade, I was finally able to start playing competitively. My dad was my coach for our first tournament; and after we lost our first game 56-4, it was his last tournament coaching me until my sophomore year of high school. If you know just how competitive my dad is, you understand this.

When I was finally able to play for him in high school, our teams were able to break some records and make a few crazy state tournament runs. However, my very last memory of high school basketball didn’t happen before or during the state championship game my senior year, it happened after.

The fans had filtered out and the stands were completely empty. My dad put his arm around my shoulders as we walked across the floor together one last time.

No words, only tears, and a season of life all wrapped up in an intentional, quiet walk. This is the aspect people don’t often see behind two extremely competitive individuals.

No words, only tears, and a season of life all wrapped up in an intentional, quiet walk. This is the aspect people don’t often see behind two extremely competitive individuals.

Even though we thought we would never take the floor together again, the Lord had bigger and better plans than we could have ever imagined. However, there were a few changes made in our relationship between high school and college.

Our rides home after practices and games in high school turned into phone calls and office meetings in college. The scouting trips to analyze our next toughest opponent in high school turned into recruiting trips to analyze our next top recruit in college. I had to relearn what it was like to play for an individual who is extremely like myself; and to say this was an easy adjustment would be stretching the truth, but it was far more than worth it.

One aspect that has not changed is the type of coach he is. My dad has always been the first one to let us know when we need to improve; but once we’ve reached his expectations, he’s always the first one to let us know with a big side hug and encouraging word.

He cares far more about the players on his team as individuals than what their ability is on the court.

He cares far more about the players on his team as individuals than what their ability is on the court. He understands and knows full well basketball is only a season of life and the Lord calls us to compete as hard as we can every single day with the abilities He has blessed us with; and when everything is said and done, we will be able to use what basketball has taught us as go into the world and future careers to love and serve those around us.

Throughout the years of having a dual relationship of dad and daughter / coach and player, there were times that took a lot of navigation and practice. There were times when it was hard to separate the roles of dad and coach which would result in an occasional eye roll on the court and at the supper table; but these instances are just a part of our story.

Our final season together ended in a way that we could’ve never seen coming; but through it all, the Lord truly blessed me with the opportunity to play competitively under my dad for five years and we’ve been able to create memories that will last a lifetime.

Our final season together ended in a way that we could’ve never seen coming; but through it all, the Lord truly blessed me with the opportunity to play competitively under my dad for five years and we’ve been able to create memories that will last a lifetime.

So a final note to my dad:

Thanks for introducing me to the game I fell in love with. Thanks for pushing me and seeing my potential.

Thanks for nagging me to get up and shoot, especially when I didn’t feel like it.

Thanks for instilling me a competitive spirit.

Thanks for the long car ride talks and phone calls.

Thanks for teaching me life lessons that go far beyond basketball.

Thank you for teaching me that the Lord holds everything in his hands, no matter the circumstances or outcomes.

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