Cope-ing: A lesson in fatherhood

On April 26, John F. Kennedy completed a walk off, extra innings win against Champion, but Golden Flashes coach Tim Cope didn’t feel all that defeated.

He was just about to meet up with an old friend.

“This guy’s my hero,” Cope said of Brookfield coach Bob Trudo, whose Warriors were setting up to face the Eagles in the second game of a doubleheader.

“No, no, no,” Trudo quickly responded after greeting Cope with a hug. “I owe eveything I know to this guy right here.”

It’s moments like these that Cope will miss the most.

“Seeing all the coaches really,” Cope said. “It’s a great brotherhood that we have amongst each other. I respect all of them and I think the feeling is mutual. You look forward to seeing guys like Bob on the ballfield and building rapport over the years.

“It’s a unique thing and I admire all of them.”

After 16 years and a 242-117 record as a varsity baseball coach, he’s stepping away from the sport to spend more time with his family.

Who can blame him?

“Dave Stevens, a former assistant coach for me, once said, ‘Don’t spend all your time coaching someone else’s kids and miss your own grow up. You only get one chance to watch your kids and you can’t get those years back.'”

His sons, Preston, 12, and Collin, 7, are active children who take part in several after-school programs. They both participate in the Champion Youth Flag Football League. Preston performs for Studio L Dance Center and Collin plays pee-wee baseball for Champion Athletic Club.

“That time has come now, with both boys being involved in activities, that I want to be there for both of them and support them in whatever they choose to be active in,” Cope said.

It’s a familair story. My father did the same for me and my younger brother. Rick Peaslee grew up on a farm in West Virginia, began his career in North Carolina and moved to the Mahoning Valley when I was a toddler in the early 1990s.

I started playing baseball at 6, soccer at 8 and basketball at 10 – my dad was either a coach, spectator or loyal fan at every game – while running a business and working well over 40 hours a week.

From teaching me how to ‘squish the bug’ to squaring up in a game of H.O.R.S.E, he sacrificed many hours of his precious time to pass his love of sports down to me.

Fathers Day is still a month away, but this really is a fitting time to respect the love and care our guardians have bestowed upon us. Preston and Collin have already repead the benefits of extended dad time.

“They’ve said I can spend my free time coaching them,” said Cope, who guided Southington to state final fours in 1998 and 2000. “I’m definitely looking forward to that and I really hope it sticks. Those are the moments you cherish to make lasting memories.”

Cope will still retain his role as Champion High School Athletic Director, a position he’s held since 2003. But it’ll still sting, sometimes, to leave his ‘family’ on the diamond.

“I feel like I’m a father figure to my team,” Cope said. “It’s tough to seperate yourself from that.”