Bonds built through sports
Local athletes celebrate relationships with their dads on Father’s Day
From a young age, sports can provide a common ground for a child and a father to bond.
The father’s interest is passed down to the child, and it can often open a whole new world for them. That child can go on to play youth sports, before moving onto the high school level and if things go accordingly, it can lead to college and even professional sports, too. What can start as a weekend afternoon outing going to games, can grow to become a livelihood.
The Mahoning Valley has seen no shortage of successful father/son and father/daughter duos across all high school sports this past academic year.
This Father’s Day, the Tribune Chronicle and The Vindicator have chosen to highlight some of those special bonds.
FROM TEE BALL TO
In Lakeview softball’s last game of the season against Niles, the team wanted to honor its two seniors, Kylie Imes and Raegan Schick, with a “last at-bat” during the game.
First, Imes hit and got on base. So, head coach Nate Schick called timeout to bring on a courtesy runner and allow Imes to get a standing ovation as she came off the field.
Then, a couple batters later, it was Raegan’s turn.
Raegan got her hit, but this one sailed to right field and she made her way around the bases as fast as she could. As she rounded second base, tears started to well up in her eyes. She made her way to third, where none other than her third-base coach and father Nate was waiting for her.
“It ended up being for a triple and I’m pretty sure it was her only triple of her high school career,” Nate said. “It was her last at-bat and I coach third base, so it was a very cool moment. Both she and I were pretty much in tears as she approached the base. It was just a really cool way for her to go out.”
Nate’s introduction to coaching was different than most. He got involved “by default” because no one else was available to do the job.
This allowed both he and Raegan to learn and grow in the game together over the years. It started with 10U tee ball in the Lakeview rec league and it culminated with high school softball.
“I would constantly just try to improve as a coach and improve my knowledge of the game, and I got to do that with her,” Nate said. “So it was a great bonding experience for us.”
After that last game, Raegan wanted to show her appreciation for Nate and all that he had done for her over the years as both her dad and her coach.
So, she wrote out a touching note to her father on social media, which read “Dear dad, thank you. Thank you for taking the risks. For pushing me to my limits. Thank you for growing to love this sport with me for the past 10 years. Thank you for always being my biggest fan and the most kick-(expletive) coach in the entire world. My heart really does feel broken.
“And we may not have any time left on the diamond together, but I know you’ll always keep pushing me, always keep loving me, always kicking-(expletive) with me, even if it’s not from the third base line. I love you <3."
The post received more than 400 likes on Twitter and received a myriad of positive comments and feedback.
“I’ve always liked to do emotional posts for my family,” Raegan said. “So after the game, it was hard because I’ve been playing most of my life and (Nate) has basically been there for that my entire life. I just used it as a way to get my feelings out and it ended up getting a lot more attention than I thought it would.”
The Guarnieri family has been synonymous with Niles baseball since 1997.
Two brothers have led the program for the past 25 years — T.C. served as head coach from 1997 to 2007, then Michael took over and has led the Red Dragons in all but one season since.
For the past four years, another Guarnieri has been part of the fold, Michael’s son Mikey.
Michael has coached Mikey and this recent group of Niles seniors since they were 6 or 7 years old.
“This year was obviously a little more emotional knowing that it was going to be the last time that I was not only going to coach my son, but the rest of that group,” Michael said. “One of the things that I’ve always tried to stress to Mikey was to make sure he was playing the game for the right reasons and playing the game for him.”
Having been coached by his dad for so long, Mikey said he can attribute almost everything he’s learned in life to him.
“I wouldn’t want anyone else to coach me but him,” Mikey said. “Everything he’s taught me on and off the baseball field, from how to swing, to just being a man.”
This past season, the pair shared a number of special moments during their final times together, but one sticks out for both of them — the upset win over Canfield in the district semifinal.
“You always want them to have a story,” Michael said. “Certainly that win is something that my son and his team can now hold onto that for the rest of their lives.”
With a team riddled with Division I prospects, the Cardinals expected to challenge for a state championship, but the Red Dragons had other plans. They held on for the 4-3 win with Mikey recording two hits to help Niles to victory.
“Going into that game, we were the underdogs — that’s just how it was,” Mikey said. “That whole time I’m playing the game, I’m thinking and then the moment that last out was made, I remember looking at (Michael) and (telling him) this is what we’ve been working for, for the last 18 years, this is it right here, this moment. I wouldn’t want to share it with any other coach.”
JUST A FAMILY THING
Madison Angelo’s situation with Canfield softball was unique.
Not only did she have the opportunity to play for her father, Joe, during her high school career, but her mother, Erin, was a coach for the Cardinals, as well.
“It’s kind of like a family thing,” Madison said. “It’s definitely been an experience because playing in high school is always such a fun thing to do. To have your Dad there in the midst of it — there’s a really good bond that’s formed between us and that’s kind of been a big part of our relationship. Just to have that with him has been special.”
Now that Madison has graduated, Joe and Erin won’t be coaching the Cardinals anymore, but they still have a plethora of shared memories between them that they will always be able to reflect on, including this season’s run to the district championship.
“It’s something we’ll be able to look back on and reminisce about and talk about for so long,” Madison said. “No matter how much time passes, those will always be core memories that we’ll always have together. Not a lot of people can say that and I’m really glad to have had those memories with him.”
During Canfield’s Senior Night and during the team banquet after the season, Madison gave a speech as one of the team’s seniors. She reflected on her high school career and her time playing for her Dad.
“She acknowledged me and all the time and years and effort,” Joe said. “When you hear your child recognize you in that way — it was special.”
Not only has Joe been Madison’s high school coach, he’s also been her travel team’s coach.
Last summer, before Madison’s senior season, her travel team won nationals at the Space Coast in Florida. They didn’t lose a game that whole week and after winning the championship game, the pair had the chance to celebrate together.
“That was just a huge moment for everyone,” Madison said. “Having that was really special. I’ll always remember that look that happened between us in that moment.”
SEVEN YEARS TOGETHER
What began seven years ago, culminated at the Jack Arvin Classic earlier this month.
Crestview football coach Paul Cusick has been “blessed” with the opportunity to coach two of his sons over the past seven years. It started with his eldest son, Gabe, who played linebacker for the Rebels from 2015-2018, and now his younger son Anthony has just finished his final year playing quarterback for Crestview.
“Being able to see your son develop, grow and mature in the program means a lot and it’s very special,” Paul said. “Anthony had a very strong career and Gabe enjoyed his time as well. There’s a lot of pride you have when you’re coaching your son.”
On Senior Night against Champion at the end of the regular season, the Golden Flashes had scored 10 unanswered points to force overtime.
Crestview’s offense got the ball with a chance to win the game. Before taking the field, Paul had a heart-to-heart conversation with his son.
“He pulled me aside and told me how I needed to score the game-winning touchdown,” Anthony said. “I’ll probably remember that talk forever, right there in that moment.”
Anthony would go on to accomplish that goal for the Rebels, leading them to the overtime victory.
“(That) was pretty special,” Paul said.
When Crestview’s season ended a couple weeks later against Bellaire in the playoffs, Anthony and Paul both thought it would be the last time they would take the field together.
However, when the game director for the annual Jack Arvin Classic reached out to Paul to gauge his interest in coaching the Mahoning all-star team, he saw it as an opportunity.
“Selfishly, I thought it would give me a chance to coach my son one more time,” Paul said. “It was a great atmosphere and a great game to go out on. We haven’t had it in a couple years, so I really enjoyed the chance to coach him (again) for (those) two weeks.”
Anthony ended up being named the Mahoning team’s MVP for the game after going 21-for-31 for 273 passing yards and two touchdowns.
“That was such a blessing because we thought that would be it at the end of the regular season,” Anthony said. “Our last playoff game, we thought that would be our last playoff game together, so we were really excited about (being in that game).”
REUNITING ON THE COURT
After 20 years of coaching Division I college basketball, Bernard Scott wanted a change.
He had missed enough time with his family due to the time demands that come with being a college coach. So, he took over the Ursuline girls basketball program prior to last season. This allowed him the opportunity to coach his daughter Lily, a guard for the Irish.
“It’s been a great experience,” Bernard said. “When I was at the college level for as long as I was, I missed a lot of her games. So for us to be on the same team and be able to be on the same sideline, it’s been great for me. And I’m enjoying every minute of it.”
For Lily, having her father at her games was a little bit of an adjustment at first, but overall, she’s grateful to have him there.
“It’s nice for him to be there,” Lily said. “It’s a little bit different because he definitely has higher expectations for me because he knows what I’m capable of, so he pushes me a little bit more than other coaches have.”
Attending her dad’s college games when she was young led Lily to pick up the game herself, and she hasn’t looked back since — Lily was second on the team in scoring this past season as a sophomore, averaging 8.9 points per game. She finished her season by scoring 23 points in a district semifinal loss to Brookfield.
Ursuline’s season opener in November marked a special moment for the pair, since it was their first game on the court together.
“It was my first opportunity to coach her and be on the sideline with her,” Bernard said. “Anytime I can see her out there doing what she loves is a great moment for me.”