It’s not quite true that if you enter the Franklin College softball team’s dugout and ask for the coach’s kid, half the team will answer.
But with six daughters of high school and travel coaches on the roster, several players might speak up.
Partly as a product of travel softball’s rise and partly because players who really understand the game are highly sought after by college coaches, this year’s Franklin team has more than its share of representatives from the ranks of coaches’ kids:
Junior pitcher/first baseman Mckensie Vanosdol, the team leader in hits and RBIs, played for her dad, Steve, an assistant at Jennings County who is now the head coach there.
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Sophomore catcher Taylor Johnson’s father, Brad, coached her at Beech Grove.
Infielder Jasmine Hanna was coached by her father, Roger, at Clinton Prairie.
Sophomore stolen base leader Baylea Suiters had her father, Kenny, as an assistant coach at Lutheran High School.
And freshmen twins Olivia and Grace Paszek played for their dad, Joe, at Franklin Community High School.
Joe Paszek and Brad Johnson are volunteer assistants for Franklin College coach Butch Zike. Moreover, all five of the dads coached their daughters through travel softball, as well as high school.
Zike, who coached his own daughter, Bethany, at Whiteland Community High School 15 years ago, regards it a bonus to have so many players whose dads were coaches.
“If I am (recruiting) a coach’s kid, I know she’s lived it,” Zike said. “I know she has a great deal of enthusiasm for the game, and that it’s important to her.
“At the (NCAA Division III) level, that’s important.”
Each of the six players speaks of developing a deeper appreciation for and knowledge of the game due to their dad having been their coach.
‘Taught me so m
McKenzie Vanosdol said her dad has shaped her thinking about the game so much she sometimes hears him coaching her on the field when he’s not even within earshot.
“He’s coached me since I was little, in travel and high school. Now, I get to listen to him in the outfield instead of in the dugout,” she said. “I can hear him talking to me inside my head. We think on the same level when it comes to softball. In fact we’ve coached together on my sister’s travel team.
“He and I would have the same thought process, where I would be coaching first base and in my mind I would think, ‘We need to bunt here,’ and he would give the bunt sign even as I thought it.”
Jasmine Hanna has a similar dialogue with her father, which she says was formed not just during practices and games. When she would ride home with her dad from high school and travel games, situations and plays would be rehashed for the sake of ongoing improvement.
Even as a college player, Hanna will talk with her dad about things that happened in games. She admitted that as she gets older, responding with “I know” is a more frequent occurrence, but explains that it’s not out of exasperation with her dad.
“I can say that because by now we’ve been through every situation possible since we started playing this game,” she said. “He’s taught me so much.”
Baylea Suiters said the discussions she’s had with her father over the years have allowed her to keep improving as a player, as well as to understand the game’s strategy better. She also credited him with being a big fan and an encourager.
‘Have gotten closer’
Kenny Suiters agreed that a lot of his input now is to encourage his daughter in happy and less-happy moments. Like most parents, he occasionally offers advice from the stands during games.
“If she’s having a bad day or had a bad game, we’ll talk it over, and I just remind her that nobody’s is perfect,” he said. “Other times I tell her to keep playing at a high level.
“I still yell out instructions sometimes about what to do, like when she’s batting. She hears me. She doesn’t always like it, but she hears me.”
Baylea Suieters also said that the coach-player relationship she’s enjoyed with her dad has strengthened their bond.
Both Grace and Olivia Paszek said the bond they have with their father is stronger because of softball. They agree that dad pushes them harder as a coach but add that they know it is for their own good, which in turn makes them closer as a family.
Taylor Johnson also acknowledged having a tighter relationship with her dad because of sports.
“We definitely have gotten closer. He’s always helped me think of ways to get better,” Johnson said. “As a coach he treated me like everyone else unless it was harder, but I have gotten better at handling that.
“It’s really brought us closer together and given us something to bond over,” she said.
Zike said that while he didn’t worry about outside perceptions when he coached his own daughter, he emphasized to her that she would need to be the hardest working player on the team “or it will never work out.”
‘A higher standard’
Both Brad Johnson and Roger Hanna say similar things of their approach to coaching their own daughters over the years.
“I coached both my son in baseball and my daughter in softball, and I think I held both kids to a higher standard,” Brad Johnson said. “A lot of people looking in might have said, ‘The only reason she’s playing is because of her dad being the coach.’
“So I told Taylor she would need to be a leader, to set a high standard in practice. She knows that on the field she’s supposed to treat me as a coach and I will treat her as a player.”
Roger Hanna understands how some outsiders might feel about dads coaching their children, and he’s seen both sides of it.
“To me, if you are having solid practices, producing good players and getting good results on the field, the other parents will respect that,” he said. “They’ll see what you are doing.
“I know some dads only coach because their daughter’s playing, and they don’t really know the sport. I’ve seen that. You just have to show by your work that it’s not like that.”
Hanna estimated that at least 80 percent of travel softball coaches are dads whose daughters are on the team.
Mckensie Vanosdol regards it an advantage she forms a pitching battery with catcher Taylor Johnson. As daughters of coaches, they are often on the same strategic page.
“I’ve noticed especially with her that we think a lot alike,” Vanosdol said. “I’ll think, ‘This is the pitch I want to throw,’ and she’ll call it.
“We think about the whole game and not just your own position.”
THE COACHES’ KIDS
Player;Father’s coaching background
McKensie Vanosdol, junior pitcher/first base;Played for her father, Steve Vanosdol, the varsity head coach at Jennings County High School.
Taylor Johnson,sophomore catcher;Played for her father, Brad Johnson, at Beech Grove High School. He is now a volunteer assistant at Franklin College.
Jasmine Hanna, sophomore infielder;Played for her father, Roger Hanna, at Clinton Prairie High School. He resigned the position to attend all of his daughter’s home and away college games.
Baylea Suiters, sophomore infielder;outfielder;Played for her father, Kenny Suiters, at Lutheran High School, where he was an assistant coach. He now attends all of Franklin’s home and away games.
Olivia Paszek, freshman pitcher, and twin sister, Grace Paszek, freshman infielder;Played for their father, Joe Paszek, who was the head coach at Franklin Community High School. He is now a volunteer assistant at Franklin College.