June 24, 2018
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Children of UMaine coaches face challenges, gain rewards in sports

By Larry Mahoney, BDN Staff

Varney’s won the Bangor East Little League baseball championship this season.

Carson Atherley pitched and played shortstop for the titlists; twin girls Alli and Morgan Trimper each played either left field or second base; Koby Corkum played right or left field and Calvin Mercier was a versatile player who could play a lot of different positions.

If those names sound familiar, they should.

Atherley is the son of University of Maine women’s soccer coach Scott Atherley. Alli and Morgan Trimper are the daughters of Steve Trimper, the Black Bear baseball coach. Koby Corkum is the son of University of Maine associate men’s hockey coach Bob Corkum and Mercier is the son of former Black Bear winger Martin Mercier.

Being part of an athletic family can be challenging but also rewarding.

The sons and daughters have experienced advantages and disadvantages to being “the coach’s kid” while gaining the benefits of a college athletic environment. The coaches, who have demanding work schedules, have tried to stay involved with their children’s athletics by teaching them at home while trying to keep the right balance of assisting without being overbearing on their children or their coaches

Pluses and minuses

Being a coach’s kid is more of an advantage than a disadvantage, according to Jillian Woodward, daughter of University of Maine men’s basketball coach Ted Woodward.

“He can help me out with my sport. Any questions I have, I can always ask him. And he’s always there to support me in everything.”

Jillian Woodward plays basketball and softball at Orono High School, where she will be a junior in the fall.

She said her dad doesn’t put any pressure on her and she doesn’t feel any added pressure being his daughter.

“It’s like having a regular dad with a regular job. … I just play how I can play,” said Jillian. “My dad is very low-key. He steps back and lets my coaches coach me. If I have some issues like my shots aren’t going in, he’ll give me tips on how to improve.”

Jeri Cosgrove, daughter of UMaine football coach Jack Cosgrove and a former starting catcher for the Bangor High School softball team, said she never had any “real issues” being her dad’s daughter.

“I always had to make sure I was good when I spoke with people because I wanted to make a good impression and make sure I had a good public image for my dad and for myself, too,” said Jeri, who will be a sophomore at the University of Maine in the fall. “I always felt like a pretty normal kid. A couple of times people would say ‘Your dad is the football coach at Maine. That’s cool.’”

She said one thing that might surprise people who see her dad intensely pacing the sidelines and occasionally getting in the face of one of his players at a UMaine football game is that he is “mellow.”

“He lets us do our own thing but if we need him, he’s always there,” said Jeri.

Jeri’s younger brother Matt said he feels a little extra pressure.

“There are high expectations,” said Matt Cosgrove, who plays football, basketball and baseball at Bangor High. “People will say ‘He’s Jack Cosgrove’s son. He must he the real deal.’ But I love the pressure.”

He said once in a while, “someone will disagree with something my dad did and they’ll take it out on me for some reason. But it doesn’t happen very often.”

And he said the pluses of being Jack Cosgrove’s son heavily outweigh the negatives.

“A lot of people know who you are and where you come from,” said Cosgrove. “And my dad has really helped me out a lot. We go to the gym together. He’s a real good dad.”

Honing skills; volunteers beneficial

Jack Cosgrove said he works with his four children on their athletic skills at home. He doesn’t feel today’s youngsters spend enough time on skill development.

“I’ve brought that into my kids’ lives. I actively engage them [in honing their skills],” said Cosgrove. “Everybody has a gift. If your gift is in athletics, you need to really work hard to see that gift through to the end.”

One of the primary reasons he has taken a background role in his children’s coaching is the fact he has been very impressed with the instruction they have received in Bangor’s youth programs.

“I can’t say enough about the experiences our kids have had. There are a lot of dedicated and committed people at the youth levels in Bangor. It is a labor of love for them. They really go to great lengths to provide a quality program for the kids,” said Cosgrove. “Not only do they coach, you’ll also find them working on the fields. It’s amazing.”

The other coaches agreed.

“They make it a fun experience and interact well with the kids,” said Scott Atherley. “Carson has never had a bad experience. He’ll leave a practice or a game happy and excited to go back.”

Atherley also said, “It’s very important for kids to establish good habits at an early age. It’s hard to break bad habits.”

Cosgrove admits it irritates him if he hears parents criticizing youth coaches.

“I greatly appreciate what the coaches do for our kids,” said Cosgrove. “Parents need to be more appreciative of the coaches.”

College atmosphere helps

Like Cosgrove, Bob Corkum has four children who play sports.

“I’ve encouraged our kids to play sports but I’ve never pushed them to play,” said Corkum, who spent 12 years in the NHL. “I just want them to enjoy themselves and the benefits that come with playing a sport.”

All of the sons and daughters of University of Maine coaches have had the benefit of being around college athletes their whole lives.

“I’ll watch them play, learn from what they do and use it toward [improving] my game,” said Carson Atherley, who has followed in his father’s footsteps as a soccer player.

Jillian Woodward was a ballgirl for the women’s basketball team.

“It was fun to be around the women’s players and my dad’s players. You can learn from them,” said Woodward.

“You can have an image of a college kid being lazy and partying,” said Jeri Cosgrove. “But they work really work hard. Dad’s players will work out at 6 a.m. That’s a good thing to see.”

Carson Atherley said he has benefited from using the facilities at the university and in other venues he has gone with his father.

Scott Atherley pointed out that in addition to sports, his son has benefited academically from his exposure to his women’s soccer players.

“He would go on road trips with us and, coming back from a game, he would see our players with their noses in their books studying at 11:00 at night,” said Atherley.

Finding the right balance

Atherley said there is a definite balance when it comes to coaching his son. He added that everything is done on Carson’s terms.

He explained that if you overload your child with advice, you risk damaging their confidence.

“It’s important to instill confidence in your kids and your players. So it’s important for them to recognize that you have faith and confidence that they know what they’re doing out there,” said Atherley. “I don’t offer him an abundance of advice but when he asks, I’m happy to provide suggestions. I refrain from saying ‘You need to do this and you need to do that.’ Part of his development is finding things out on his own.”

Most of the coaches have been involved in coaching their kids at some level. Some actually coach their children’s team and others will occasionally get requests to help out at a practice and they will happily oblige.

“I don’t overstep my bounds,” said Steve Trimper. “I’ll help out when I’m asked to. My girls play soccer, hockey and baseball so, in two of the three sports, I know nothing about them.”

However, he will readily admit “I love going to all of their games.”

Maine men’s hockey coach Tim Whitehead had to take a proactive role in his daughter, Natalie’s, hockey career because the opportunities pertaining to girls teams were so limited.

“The girls needed a lot of help so my wife Dena and I helped set up a girls Under-12 program,” said Whitehead. “But now they’ve got a great group of coaches.”

Jack Capuano, former Maine defenseman and current coach of the NHL’s New York Islanders, helped establish a youth hockey program in South Carolina where he was the general manager and coach of Pee Dee Pride in the ECHL.

His son, Anthony, plays football, baseball and hockey at Bangor High and his older sister, Adrianna, played multiple sports at Bangor, including tennis and soccer, before graduating.

Despite a hectic schedule, Capuano has tried to attend as many of their games as possible.

“I’ve always talked to my kids [about sports]. In youth sports, the best thing to do is make sure they’re having fun. If they are, everything falls into place,” said Capuano. “When they get to high school age, you still want them to enjoy themselves while making sure they’re learning proper skill development.”

His children have had quality coaching, he said.

Whitehead’s son, Zach, plays a number of sports including hockey and soccer just like his older sister.

“I’ll help out in Zach’s hockey practices but I stay a little more on the sidelines,” said Whitehead.

Whitehead said he has always “enjoyed working with kids and parents at the youth level” even before his children got involved.

“I loving going on the ice for summer camps,” said Whitehead.

Ted Woodward said it has been a “great experience” watching Jillian and younger brother Tommy “play and grow in games.”

“It’s a thrill any chance you get to spend time with your family,” said Atherley in summing up the consensus of the coaches-parents.

The kids know their parents care about them and want what’s best for them.

“I know my dad tries to get to as many of our games as he can. If he isn’t there, it’s for a good reason. I love having him there,” said Jillian Woodward.

“I have a pretty serious travel schedule but I try to make as many of their activities as I can,” said Whitehead. “When I do make one, I soak it in and enjoy it.”

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