01STOCK_BASEBALL

Four weeks ago Monday I became a dad.

My wife, Whitney, and I were blessed with a baby girl and a short hospital stay. Emma learned quickly the Brewers batting order and pitching rotation, and all three of us shook a fist at the TV when the hospital’s TNT feed froze and kept us from watching a Bucks playoff game.

A friend and summer basketball coach made sure one of our first baby presents was a miniature hoop. An area softball coach recently gifted Emma the smallest mitt I’ve ever seen.

It’s safe to say our daughter was born into a wide world of sports.

And with that in mind, for my first Father’s Day, I figured what better way to celebrate than by gleaning some advice from some of the area high school coaches who are dads?

What words of wisdom would they have for a new dad?, I wondered.

If you’ve been to a Walworth Big Foot sporting event, there’s a good chance you’ve seen the Dowden crew. Mike, the Chiefs’ head girls basketball coach, and his wife, Caitlin, Big Foot’s head volleyball coach, have four daughters—ages 6, 4, 3 and 1.

“Every experience is a new experience for your children, and they are always watching dad,” Mike told me. “I was watching hoops on TV and made a comment about a nice pass. For the next 10 minutes, my kids were saying nice pass after every basket.

“Time goes by way too fast! Enjoy every minute, because even the bad ones are better than one day of work.”

Once Whitney and I found out we were expecting, it didn’t take long for me to start noticing youngsters at games more.

One of the most precious of those moments came after Janesville Craig’s loss in the football playoffs last fall. Head coach Adam Bunderson’s young son got special permission to stay up late and watch dad’s team play, and he was so excited to catch up with dad on the field after the game. He was too young to realize the score, and when Adam told him the Cougars had lost and the season was done, his son was heartbroken.

“But I wanted the Cougars to win!” he sobbed.

Just a toddler, but he summed up some of the emotions that come with being a sports fan—whether you’re 3 years old or 83 years old.

“A coach with young kids is gone a lot, so involve your family and kids in what you do,” Bunderson offered as some sage advice to a sports editor who will certainly work some strange hours as Emma grows up.

Beloit Turner’s baseball team experienced a different result, but I ran into a similar situation with Trojans coach Jeff Clowes this spring when his son simply wanted to congratulate his dad and hang out on the diamond after a victory.

Dad did his best to deal with a needy reporter or two when I’m sure he would rather have just enjoyed that moment.

“I’m not sure if I’m a guy to be handing out advice. Every day seems like I learn something new,” Clowes said Saturday. “However, I do have an amazing father that has always been my rock. Some of the best advice he has given me is to always ‘say what you mean and mean what you say.’

“Simple advice, but I’m amazed how many times I come back to it with our boys.”

Of course, some light-hearted advice never hurt a new dad, either.

Craig baseball coach Victor Herbst, who had his oldest son, Ryan, in the lineup this spring before he watched him graduate, offered this: “Hit from the left side.”

And, perhaps some wisdom that isn’t as amusing as it seems, Parker golf coach Sam Van Galder told me, “Get double, and sometimes triple, confirmation on what cup you’re pouring milk into. You don’t want to experience what happens if you choose a cup for them.”

A couple coaches/dads made sure to impress upon me just how invaluable family time can be.

“Never underestimate the power of time with your child,” said Kendall Buttchen, boys soccer and basketball coach at Evansville. “When you are home and able to be with your child, be present and involved.”

Craig athletic director and boys basketball coach Ben McCormick took time to text me back from Canada, where he was fishing with one of his sons.

“As I get older, the most important thing is spending time with them (my kids),” he said. “I’ve heard that 80 percent of the time you spend with your kids will be before they turn age 12. I’m realizing this is true. Make the most of the time you have with them.”

Armed with some good advice from area coaching dads, I can’t wait to see what the future holds.

Happy Father’s Day to all—including my dad, who so often was my coach growing up, and to my father-in-law, who spent a good chunk of this weekend coaching on the hardwood.

Eric Schmoldt is the sports editor of The Gazette. Reach him at eschmoldt@gazettextra.com.

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