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From rug rat to gym rat: 'You're expected to be good being the coach's son'

By aalvarado
Jan. 7, 2012 at 9:05 p.m.
Updated Jan. 7, 2012 at 7:08 p.m.

West boys varsity basketball coach Pat Irskine discusses a play during a timeout on Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2012 at Victoria West High School. Irskine heads a team that is made up in part by his own children. His sons Drew and Chris play XX and XX respectively.JONATHAN HINDERLITER/ JHINDERLITER@VICAD.COM

Some people toss the football around the yard or play some one-on-one basketball on weekends and holidays when the family is together.

But for a handful of Crossroads area families, the joy of sports goes beyond birthday parties and holiday gatherings.

Whether it is on the hardwood or the gridiron, the Erskine, Hawthorne, Heryford and Smith families have experienced the joy that comes when a parent coaches a son who is competing in high school.

Victoria West's first family of basketball

In the Erskine household, nothing trumps basketball, including the arrival of a new little brother.

"While Chris was being born, Drew was dribbling a ball down the hallway," Victoria West boys head basketball coach Pat Erskine said. "We knew both of them were going to be basketball players."

This season, Warriors basketball games look like an Erskine family gathering with Pat on the bench as coach, Drew in the backcourt and Chris in the post.

Pat took over the Warriors program in April 2010 and, with Drew on the roster, the Warriors experienced some opening-season success.

Drew, then a junior, was named District 30-4A MVP and an inexperienced Warriors team made it to the playoffs.

Drew is now a senior guard, and the older brother said being the son of a coach has put expectations on him by fans.



"It kind of puts a chip on your shoulder," Drew said. "You're expected to be good being the coach's son."

Pat may have been Drew's head coach the past two years, but the father has been helping nurture his son's game for years.

"He's kind of always been my coach," Drew said. "Even in the stands after the games, he would coach me."

This season, Chris, a sophomore post, joined the Warriors varsity team.

"The baby's big," Pat joked about Chris.

The youngest Erskine said that although he knew the time would come when he would be playing with his brother and for his dad, it does not diminish how meaningful this season has been for him.

"It's really awesome," Chris said. "This is the last year (Drew) going to be here, so we're going to make it last."

Refugio's championship bloodlines

Last month, the Refugio Bobcats won the school's first state championship in 28 years.

The Bobcats ensured native Refugioans, fans and alumni 15 games full of memorable catches and game changing moments.

But for four Bobcats, it had a little extra meaning.

Defensive coordinator Steve Heryford and defensive assistant Kent Hawthorne along with their sons Jake Heryford and Lynx Hawthorne helped Refugio to a perfect season and a state championship.

"This has probably been the most meaningful year of football in my life because I got to go through it with my dad," said Jake in the week leading up to Refugio's Class 2A, Division II championship game against Cisco.

"I want to finish this year off with a ring with him," Jake said.

The Hawthorne's came to Refugio prior to the 2011 season when Kent took a job as an assistant after serving as Weimar's head coach.

Kent is a second-generation football coach.

"It's a family business," Kent said about coaching football.

Although having a father that is a football coach will not naturally make a player run, block or tackle better, Refugio head coach Jason Herring said there is a difference between a coach's son and other players.

Coach's kids usually grow up around the game and learn a lot about hard work and being goal oriented.

"God willing, I hope my son is one of them one of these days," Herring said. "There's something unique about a coach's kid. I can't put my finger on it except they grow up around it."

Lynx graduated early from Refugio so he could enroll at Baylor in the spring and participate in the Bear's spring football drills.

Although he has an idea of what career path he will follow, the Hawthorne's could see a third generation of football coach.

"I wanted to get into general engineering, but the truth is I can't get away from football," Lynx said. "I might as well face the fact that I'm going to end up being a football coach. He was a coach's son, I'm a coach's son. It really runs in your blood."

Love for sports endures

It's been nearly 20 years since Jimmy Smith played his final basketball game at Victoria High, but sports are very much part of his life.

Jimmy is the Vice President of Financing and IT for the FC Dallas soccer team.

"I'm in sports and I think a lot of that's because of my background," Jimmy said.

Jimmy was coached by his father Mike during four seasons of varsity basketball.

Mike was Victoria High's head basketball coach from 1972-1998. Mike is currently a varsity assistant for the Victoria East girls basketball team.

During their four seasons together, the duo helped Victoria High reach the Class 5A boys championship game in 1992. The Stingarees lost to Longview 71-67 in overtime.

The following year, Jimmy was named the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches Mr. Basketball.

"It was really a good time, it just went by too fast," Mike said.

Mike said that growing up Jimmy was either in the classroom in the gym working on his game.

The years spent as a gym rat with his dad paid off when Jimmy made Victoria's varsity team as a freshman.

"By the time he was a freshman, he already knew as much as most of my seniors as far as fundamentals and strategies," Mike said. "It all comes from being around it for so long."

Although spending hours around the game and having a father as a coach may lead to basketball burnout, Jimmy said it was not the case.

Some families have hobbies and for families with coaches, it happens to be sports.

"Basketball's been part of our lives," Jimmy said. "Just like going to school or anything else.

"I was never used to anything else and I enjoyed it tremendously. Just like people go to the movies with their dad or shopping, our thing was basketball."

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