Adding to his duties as New London-Spicer’s boys tennis head coach, Chad Schmiesing faced a brand new dynamic after taking over the girls program this season.
Coaching girls tennis for the first time in eight years, 2020 marked the first time he’s been afforded the chance to coach his daughter: Wildcats junior No. 2 singles player Izzy Schmiesing.
Through the first month of the season, Coach Schmiesing says he’s still adjusting to the experience.
“I really didn’t know what to expect and I guess I found myself probably pay less attention to her than I should have, just being concerned that other players might think that I’m only here for her,” he said. “As time has gone, I’ve tried to balance it out better.”
Chad and Izzy Schmiesing are one of four parent-daughter girls tennis combinations in the area.
Willmar senior Alyssa Morrell plays at the top of the Cardinals’ singles lineup. She is coached by her mother, Amy Morrell. Longtime Lac qui Parle Valley/Dawson-Boyd head coach Brant Hacker coaches his eighth-grade daughter Sadie Hacker at No. 2 doubles. At Litchfield, junior No. 3 doubles player Taylor Draeger plays for her father, Matt Draeger.
While coaching his daughter is new territory, Schmiesing coached his son, Kenneth, as an eighth-grader on the NLS boys tennis team in 2019.
With that past experience, Schmiesing made sure his team understood that he was invested in more than just his daughter.
“At the beginning of the season, I guess I had a little bit of a fear that some of the players on the team might think that I was just there to benefit my daughter,” Schmiesing said. “I really made a concerted effort to sell them on the fact that I wanted to help everybody improve, get better and that I wasn’t here to only coach and pay attention to my daughter.”
Done this before
On the other end of the spectrum, Hacker guiding one of his daughters on the court is old hat.
His oldest daughters, Molly and Anna, each recently were a part of the LQPV/D-B tennis program. Now, Sadie gets her shot. Joining a team that graduated eight seniors a season ago, Sadie Hacker is in her first season on the varsity squad.
“This is my first year coaching her as her varsity coach, but her expectation is that I’m dad ‘cause that’s how she knows me, of course,” Brant Hacker said. “Her tendency is to talk to me like the way she would at home. ... When you have that familiarity, you feel like you can be a little more like yourself and let your guard down and maybe say things that you would say otherwise.”
Like Schmiesing, Hacker makes it a point “to a fault” that his children don't receive favored treatment. And as a way to try and break Sadie’s habit, Hacker tries to be as tough on her as he is with everyone else, admitting that his relationship with her allows him to be more direct than he would be with another player.
However, in one instance during practice, he was too firm with his criticism.
“She clearly called me out saying something like, ‘Dad, that’s not fair, I’ve been trying and you don’t talk that way to the other players,’” Brant Hacker recalled. “I was like ‘you know, you’re exactly right. I need to talk to you differently also, just like I expect you to talk to me differently.’”
When you’ve coached your kids for as long as Hacker has, the occasional dust-up does occur. He remembers a specific incident with his oldest, Molly, that he can reminisce on with a smile today.
“There was a time that she was very mad at me,” he said with a laugh. “It was during practice and I just said ‘Molly, I’m just going to go to the other end for a little bit and work with some other players. Keep working on the drill, we’re just going to take a break from each other for 5-10 minutes before we start with each other again.”
Of course, like any other flare-ups between a parent and teen-age kids, bad feelings don’t last for too long.
According to Matt Draeger, what helps quell drama from the court spilling over to home, and vice versa, is separating what happens on the tennis court and at home as much as possible.
“I take to the idea that I’m coach when I’m on the court and I’m dad when I’m home,” he said.
Taylor Draeger has had a racket in her hand for as long as she can remember.
“There’s always been pictures of me playing tennis since I was little,” she said.
Playing her first match on the Dragons varsity team four years ago as a seventh grader, Draeger has helped Litchfield reach the state tournament each of the past three seasons.
Teamed with senior Sydney Jackman, Draeger is 3-0 in double competition. But even with the success that she has had and position that she’s earned, the junior has to continue to prove herself.
“The kids I think are always in a tough situation because no matter what they do, the kids never get credit or very seldom do they get credit for what they accomplished,” Matt Draeger said. “Everyone always is going to say that they are there because of their dad is the coach.”
An added item on Taylor’s plate is simply acting as a conduit of information to her father. Her teammates come to her with suggestions or thoughts how activities can be run differently. At times, those opinions amount to venting.
“It can be kind of stressful at times because if some girls don’t like how he’s running things and don’t like a certain drill, then I’m the one who hears about it,” she said. “But the other day, the girls and I liked a certain thing he did at practice. So I told him about it and he asked the girls about it again (Monday). Now, it’s a part of our practice plan every Friday.”
Through it all though, Taylor says she wouldn’t have it any other way. She enjoys playing for her father. With all the time spent together during practice, traveling on the road and competing in matches, she expects she’ll look back fondly at those memories.
Before the future arrives, Matt Draeger will continue to relish the opportunity
“Before you know it, they’ll be walking down the aisle and off to college,” he said. “We’re just trying to help them get to that point. The unique part about this is the lessons we teach all of our players with athletics are the lessons we get to teach our own kids too. That’s a special thing.”
And even when the athletes reach college and are all grown up, the lessons and teaching, even for old-times sake, doesn’t stop.
“Anna was home Sunday from college for just one day and the one thing she wanted to do was go on the court and hit for a little bit with me,” Brant Hacker said. “That’s one thing that we share and we can do for the rest of our lives, so I think it allows for a really great experience.”