Youth sports are a fixture in every town in America, and so, too, are parents pitching in to coach. There are plenty of stories of overbearing parents on and around the field. And of course, tales of parent coaches who were outmatched. (That was me as the hapless coach of my daughter’s 3rd grade soccer team!)
Terry Hanratty, who won two Super Bowls with the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 1970s, said he always enjoyed coaching his son and daughter in New Canaan, Connecticut – even if other parents objected to his style.
“I didn’t care if we won or loss,” he said. “We were there to teach kids other things. I won enough. I wanted to teach these kids how to play the game the right way.”
Hanratty, who was a stand-out quarter back at Notre Dame where he led the team to a national championship, said some parents objected to him not pushing his teams to win more.
He remembers when his son Conor was playing 4th grade football. Hanratty changed the strategy from a run-and-gun style to a shotgun formation. “It was painful – the kids would roll the ball back,” he laughed. “We got complaints from parents. People said I was trying to show off. If I was trying to show off and win, I sure as hell wouldn’t have done that. But by high school, they got very proficient at it.
Conor went on to play offensive lineman at Norte Dame. And Hanratty said there are still some parents who don’t speak to him – 20 years later.
Hanratty surely had fun coaching his kids, but did he have any of the traditional success – you know more wins than losses? He did. The second-best team he coached was his daughter’s 10-year-old softball team. The best?
“The winningest team I ever had was my daughter’s first-grade, short-court basketball,” he said. “It was co-ed. We could have beat everyone by 50 points, so I had to fight to hold it down. I told my daughter to drive to the middle, and if no one covers you shoot. If they cover you, send it to Baby Shaq and he’ll score.”
Baby Shaq is better known today as Zach Allen, a defensive end for the Arizona Cardinals. “Other than that, I was a 500 coach,” Hanratty said. But he had fun – and imparted some life lessons to his kids and others along the way.