“I could always say, ‘Hey, Dad, can you take me to the gym real quick?’ ” Karissa McLaughlin said. “Having that was really fortunate.”
McLaughlin is one of four seniors on Homestead High School’s state-bound girls basketball team, and they all have one thing in common: Their fathers were high school basketball coaches. The girls have grown up with basketball knowledge, critiques and attention to fundamentals and game strategy in their homes.
There’s no question the dad/coach relationships have made better players of McLaughlin, Madisen Parker, Jazmyne Geist and Teryn Kline. Those seniors will lead Homestead (27-2) against Indianapolis Pike (24-3) for the Class 4A state title at 8:15 p.m. Saturday in Bankers Life Field, Indianapolis.
McLaughlin’s father, Bert, is a former head girls coach at Churubusco, Central Noble and East Noble. Geist’s father, Scott, was a head girls coach at Elkhart Memorial and assistant at Penn. Kline’s father, Michael, was an assistant boys coach at Carroll and Whitko. Parker’s father, Rod, has been Homestead's coach for 16 years.
“I remember when I was little, I’d go to practices with my dad and be around all the boys, shooting baskets,” Kline said. “Being in the gym was a big part of it. And my dad would always tell me what I needed to work on. Having a coach as a dad, they’re not easy on you, but they want you to be the best you can be.”
While all four players have stories to tell of their fathers helping them even when it felt like pestering, Parker’s interaction is the most immediate, playing for her father with the Spartans.
“In the gym, I have high expectations of Madisen, just like any other player in the program,” Rod Parker said. “I want her to perform her best and do her best. When we leave the gym, I understand to step back and lay off basketball. But we’ll still sit and talk about it a lot.”
Madisen Parker said she’s thankful for her father’s direction as an unofficial coach in her formative years to her everyday coach in high school.
“I’ve loved playing for my dad,” Madisen Parker said. “There were some ups and downs, but more ups than downs. It’s crazy to think this is the last week I’ll get to play for him.”
Fundamentals first, fun second
Karissa McLaughlin remembers the rules, stipulations and restrictions her father put on her when she was a first or second grader.
She wasn’t allowed to shoot on a 10-foot basket because it was more important to establish proper shooting form. She had to focus on mechanics, not just haphazardly throwing a ball at the rim. She wasn’t allowed to shoot three-pointers.
“At that age, you just want to shoot at the big hoop, like the older players,” she said. “He’s like, ‘You’ll be thanking me for this later.’ ”
Later is now.
“Growing up, being able to be in the gym anytime I wanted, with his knowledge, definitely helped make me the player I am today,” Karissa said. “He taught me how to shoot. It took all those little mechanics to groom me into the player I am.”
Madisen Parker can relate.
“I’m used to my dad pushing me, never letting up,” Madisen said. “I’m thankful for it now. I wasn’t at the time, but I am thankful for it now.”
Geist grew up with a father who coached and an older brother Jordan (now at Missouri) who pushed her the way only older brothers can.
Her father Scott is out of coaching now, but stays in the game as a high school referee.
“He sees all three sides (father, coach and referee), so he tells me what I do wrong and what I need to work on, and helps me outside of the game,” Jazmyne said. “He’s helped me as a player because he knew what type of athlete I was.”
Surprisingly, Geist did not play on any teams her father coached, even during early travel-league days.
“He coached my brother and my brother didn’t like that, so he didn’t want to coach me,” Jazmyne said.
“That’s true,” Scott Geist said. “Jordan was a third grader and he did not care for my style.”
Scott Geist said his hands-on coaching with Jazmyne was often of the one-on-one variety. Both of his children were always in the gym, putting up shots.
“They sat on the bench, they were in the huddles,” he said. “I’m not sure how much it helped Jazmyne’s basketball IQ, but being around that had to have helped. Both of my kids have that suck-it-up, we-don’t-cry, be-tough attitude, and that shows in their games.”
The game is ingrained
Because the Homestead players were around their coaching fathers and their teams during their elementary and junior high years, they saw the type of work ethic needed to be successful.
Madisen and Karissa first played together on a summer team for former pro player Vernard Hollins and his organization, Always 100.
Hollins has worked with all four seniors at various times. McLaughlin would come to work out at 6 a.m. and again at 3 p.m. during off seasons. The others were similarly devoted.
“One thing about those four players, they’ve always been self-motivated,” Hollins said. “Some kids you have to push. Some kids you don’t. They always pushed themselves.”
That drive can be part of a player’s personality, to be sure, but having fathers who are coaches reinforces the adherence to discipline and commitment to the game. It’s not all fathers, of course. Madisen Parker pointed out her mother Melissa coached her as a young player on Amateur Athletic Union teams through middle school.
“They are all mature kids, smart kids,” Rod Parker said. “At times, I’m sure they didn’t want to hear things from us as parents, but they realized each of us had a message there to help them get better.”
Bearing the fruits of training
Homestead sits one win away from its first girls basketball state title, and the seniors are looking at the last game of an incredible run. The Spartans reached the championship game two years ago, losing to Columbus North 62-56. McLaughlin was a starter and Parker came off the bench.
Homestead is 79-8 over the last three seasons, 102-10 over the last four.
The Spartans’ success has been bolstered by the presence of coaches’ daughters.
Karissa McLaughlin remembers her dad finally allowed her to shoot three pointers as a fourth grader, after she’d worked tirelessly mastering the B.E.E.F. method of shooting: Balance, Eyes, Elbow, Follow-through.
She has made 366 three-point field goals in her four seasons at Homestead.
“I finally have the green light,” she said, “to shoot some threes.”