Coach... You're Like a Father to me...Literally
Story By: Kyler Roberts // Photos by: Jack Lambert
You’ve worked your butt off to get to this point. You are officially a student-athlete at a university, yet it still feels right at home. Finishing your sprints that you were assigned, about to die, you look up and see your coach looking at you and the rest of your teammates. “Again,” he says. Exhausted, you get in to position for another set of lines. You have a slightly different perspective of coach than the others on the team and he always has a keen eye on you. That’s because ‘Coach’ is also ‘Dad’.
Coleman Sparling is one of three athletes here at Central Washington University who’s playing for his father, the Wildcats’ head basketball coach. He is a redshirt freshman (meaning he can’t play in any official games for the year), but he’s already learned so much in his first year.
When Coleman finished up his illustrious career at Ellensburg High, he knew the whole com-munity would be wondering where he was going to go next. Faced with offers from schools all around the country—including some D1 universities—he had a difficult decision to make. On one hand, he could join a team and go to a school away from everything and everyone that he knows. On the other, he could stay in town and attend Central, and play for his father Greg Sparling. You obviously know how that decision went.
“You know... growing up, I’ve always been a Wildcat just because... that’s how it’s been,” Cole-man says. “He didn’t push me to commit here at all, just wanted me to do whatever I thought was best. That was my final decision and I thought this was the best spot for me.”
Greg understands how big of a presence his son has in the community, so when Coleman chose to go to Central, everyone was understand-ably excited.
“The thing about Coleman is that he’s just a great kid. You can ask around town... around his high school and stuff... he’s one of those kids that would give his shirt off his back and do anything to help anybody,” Greg says.
Coleman was a local kid, so some of the older Central fans have seen him grow from a boy to a man. He was a youth basketball coach, and helps put on numerous camps for kids as well. Being so involved with everyone in the town, you can see how hard it would be to leave. Even with a few D1 offers on the table, he decided to stay here. “I think at the end of the day he really wanted to play in front of his hometown,” says Greg.
Although he hasn’t played a single minute on the court because of his redshirt season, Coleman is enjoying the first year playing under his father. If he has taken anything away from his redshirt season, it’s that he’s ecstatic to get started and he’s ready to compete.
“Winning would be pretty fun. Putting a championship up and having that chemistry... I’m just so excited just to have the opportunity after a win to give my dad a high five and say, ‘Onto the next one’,” Coleman says, smiling. “I’m [also] ex-cited to see my mom’s reaction when he first starts yelling at me.”
Coleman will be on the court soon enough, and Greg knows his redshirt season will be worth it for both his and the team’s future.
“I think the most unique thing is watching him grow as a man,” Greg says. “It’s a real special time, it’s neat to coach your own kid.”
While working on his game in the gym, Coleman has also been in contact with a Central basketball legend. Dean Nicholson, the legendary head coach who also played for his father, always has good advice for Coleman. “I talked to Dean, and he said that this is the opportunity of a lifetime so just enjoy it and grow closer; and that’s what we’re doing so far.
Kourtney Adkisson is also a freshman student-athlete at Central. She runs cross country and distance events in track & field, which are both coached by her father, Kevin Adkisson. Similar to Coleman’s situation, she grew up in this area and was faced with a decision of where to go post-high school. After exploring all of her options, she knew where she wanted to be.
“It was an easy choice because I really enjoy the town and I didn’t feel like I really had to leave,” Kourtney says.
When asked if her dad being the coach played a part in it, she admitted that it did. She was obviously familiar with the coach and how things were ran, but she also knew the team because she’d been around them since she was a child. Kevin was glad to take her in and welcome her to his second family.
“It’s fun because she’s getting to take part in something that’s such a big part of my life that she wasn’t a part of before,” Kevin says. “That’s a really new zone for me.”
Unlike the Sparlings, the Adkissons have got-ten a taste of coaching and competing in the real deal. Kourtney participated in the cross country season this past fall, and earned a spot on the Dean’s list for her academic excellence.
“I mean... that’s why I’m here. I’m here to learn, you know,” Kourtney says. “Although it’s re-ally fun to come and run; it’s a good thing because it develops my character.”
Kourtney also plans to run for her father during the track season, but is taking this season off to pursue getting herself into the physics major. She has still progressed as an athlete, and is eager to get back running for her dad next year.
“It’s just a lot of fun because you get to experience everything with someone that you’re really close to,” she says.
As his first year with his daughter comes to a close, Kevin can’t wait to see how her future un-folds, academically and athletically.
“It’d probably be one of the more exciting things [in life] to be able to watch my daughter re-ally achieve her potential. I think that’d be a lot of fun to figure out how different it will be down the road,” he says. “Because it definitely takes multiple years to achieve that in any program.”
Michael and Keilin Farrand’s situation is essentially the opposite of these last two student-athletes. Keilin didn’t choose to play soccer at Central initially because she was raised here and her dad was the Women’s head coach. After a year playing at North Idaho College, she decided the level of play wasn’t what she expected there and came back home to be a Wildcat for the past few seasons. Michael wasn’t disappointed in her first decision at all; in fact, he was enthusiastic about having her back not only for he and his family, but also for his team.
“We’re a family... we’re a little bit of gypsies and wanderers so we tend to be a little bit more independent. So when she needed to go away, I thought it was a good decision for her,” Michael says. “When she came back, it just gave us...on the soccer side, a lot more options that we didn’t have before. On the selfish side, it was like, ‘Yes, thank you.’”
Keilin was a star for the Wildcats’ soccer team on and off the field during her senior season. According to the Central Athletics website, she made First Team All-GNAC, D2CCA All-West Region Second Team, GNAC Academic All-Conference, and the Wildcats’ first-ever CoSIDA Academic All-District honors. But what she remembers most about her final season is her team’s accomplishments, not hers.
“Just that preseason in particular in California where we just started out so strongly and just kept winning... that was just really fun,” Keilin says. “Then later in regionals, it was the first time in program history so that was fun to do together as well.”
Having coached two of his daughters now at Central (other daughter Hadli Farrand played for Central from 2011-2014), Michael admits this past year is one he’ll remember for a long time.
“Definitely the year itself, in terms of the quality of what she put out on the field and what she accomplished as an individual athlete I think is fantastic,” Michael says. “Being able to be a part of the first team to regionals, that’s a huge accomplishment. I’m sure that’s one that her sister would definitely want to take back.”
From playing under her father, Keilin learned plenty of lessons regarding soccer, school, and post-grad adult life.
“I think one of the biggest lessons I can take away from playing under him in soccer would be how you need to make goals, and just keep being focused on that and keep making steps towards the goal and believing its attainable,” says Keilin.
After three seasons playing for her father and Central, what could Keilin possibly miss the most?
“My Cooking! Free Food!” Michael laughs.
“No!” Keilin yells.
“I just think that playing soccer at the collegiate level is pretty special in itself. The culture here at Central is super special and the girls are great. It’s sad to not be able to be a part of it anymore but [there’s] lots of great memories.”
Smiling in the background, her father says, “She’s just a great girl, so everyday working with her and coming home with her is actually pretty fun.”
AN EXTRAORDINARY BOND
Many parents have some kind of dream to coach their kids out on the fields or courts someday. From being at the head of their son’s little league team to being at the reigns of their daughter’s soccer team, parents want to experience teaching their kid to win and have fun doing it. To be able to do it at the collegiate level makes it that much more special.
Just because one of the kids you’re coaching is your offspring doesn’t make it any easier or harder. It’s just a unique bond and relationship very few will be able to understand. While Coleman and Kourtney still have three to four more years to grow and learn under their fathers, Keilin seems to be living proof that when it comes to pretty much everything, parents just might always know what’s best for you.
“It’s fun every day. When we come out here, we don’t think that it’s father-daughter [or son],” says Michael Farrand. “It’s just a good player and, hope-fully, a decent coach. You know, being able to do that together... it just makes it even better.