Seconds after winning the 2010 Missouri Class 5 state football championship, Evan Boehm, then a junior at Lee’s Summit West, lifted his father, Royce, the Titans’ coach, off the Edward Jones Dome turf for a bear hug.
“I’ll never forget it,” Royce said.
Few who saw it will because, while winning a state title is special for any player or coach, the moment becomes transcendent for a father and son.
“Getting that victory and having your dad jump into your arms to celebrate a state championship, it’s something special nobody can ever take away,” said Evan, now a junior center at Missouri. “You could tell when the game ended, the first person I wanted to see was my dad. My eyes went directly to the sideline to see where he was, and we met in the middle.”
Last fall, history repeated itself in a way for Royce when Lee’s Summit West pummeled Parkway Central for another Missouri Class 5 crown. The youngest Boehm, Tyler, was a sophomore.
When that game ended, Royce ran up to Tyler, hollering, “You ready?”
“Ready for what?” Tyler replied as Royce jumped into his arms — and was promptly half-dropped.
“Obviously, I really wasn’t ready for it, so I let his left leg slip,” Tyler said.
Not that it matters. It’s the time together, even an imperfectly perfect moment, that resonates.
“I don’t know if there’s too many dads out there who can say they got to win a state championship with each son individually,” Royce beamed.
Sports have long provided a way for fathers and sons to bond, but when father and son are also coach and player, the relationship deepens and widens in unique ways.
“I looked forward to it the entire time they were young boys growing up,” said first-year Springfield Glendale coach Mike Mauk, who coached his three sons — including Missouri sophomore quarterback Maty Mauk — at Kenton High School in Ohio.
“I took them to all my practices, and they were at all the games. Their time came and went so fast, it was unbelievable, but I enjoyed every moment of it. Every day, I miss it and I wish I could start all over and do it all over again.”
Royce Boehm agreed.
“The relationship is huge, being able to see your kid every day and spend all the time in the world with them, it means a lot,” he said. “It really does. Building the father-son relationship is what makes it so special.”
It also can have benefits for a player.
“It gave me a leg up being a coach’s son from the perspective of being able to talk football,” Maty Mauk said. “It carries over to college too, because I have the natural instincts and you can tell football’s in my blood.”
Of course, there can be challenges too, which Evan discovered when he moved up to the varsity team as a freshman in 2008.
“The first practice that I got moved up something was going on with my shoulder pads,” Evan said. “It kept on breaking and bending. He was probably six feet away and I said, ‘Hey, dad, can you help me with this?’”
It didn’t go over well. Royce shot Evan a death stare as he walked over to help fix the pads.
“I knew I was in trouble,” Evan said. “He looks me in the eyes, gets close and says ‘Don’t you ever call me that out here again.’”
Evan was stunned.
Royce blames his old-school coaching lineage.
“Growing up in Boonville, my coach (Gene Reagan) coached his sons and with his sons it was always, ‘Coach, coach, coach,’” he said. “I just figured that’s the way it was supposed to be.”
Royce admits now that he overreacted, but his heart was in the right place.
“It’s been a learning curve for me as a dad and a coach,” Royce said. “I have some regrets, absolutely, looking back on it, but I was trying to avoid the appearance of favoritism, the ‘Oh, you’re getting to play because your dad’s the head coach.’ ”
Fortunately for Tyler, Royce began to have a change of heart later in Evan’s career.
“It’s hard not to call him dad, because you grew up with him and that’s all you’ve ever called him,” said Tyler, who has always called Royce dad, much like the Mauk boys — including the eldest, Jonathan, and Ben, who played quarterback at Cincinnati — always called Mike dad on the field.
“When (Evan) started calling me ‘coach dad’ his junior year, that’s really what broke the ice and got me to go, ‘No, I am their dad, so call me dad,’ ” Royce said.
Outside pressures also can affect the father/son relationship.
Unfair as it might be, Evan and Tyler have been chided about receiving preferential treatment.
“You definitely have to mature a lot more throughout high school to put with the stuff being said about the way you’re playing and why you’re playing,” Evan said. “When I was a varsity wrestler my freshman year, it was because of my dad. When I was on varsity for track, it was because of my dad. Of course, my dad wasn’t even out there, but it’s the same way with Tyler.”
For Maty, the toughest part of being a coach’s son was the weight of expectations.
“Not wanting to let him down was the hardest thing,” Maty said. “I wanted to win every game, and not just win, I wanted to beat people and score 60 points every game I played.”
Tyler has felt similar pressure as an extension of his father.
“When I mess up, I hear about it more,” Tyler said. “My dad’s hard on other kids when he needs to be, but, when I got a personal foul, it seems like he yelled at me worse than he would have other kids because I was his son.”
Despite the pitfalls, the benefits of a father’s coaching far outweigh the problems.
“It was probably a little more difficult for them as the coach’s kids in some ways, but at the same time, it was a lot of fun and I think my sons relished the role of playing for their dad,” Mike said.