Bailey, Lexi and Mark Gregory during a basketball game at Fort Jennings this past winter. (DHI Media/ Wyatt Richardson)
Bailey, Lexi and Mark Gregory during a basketball game at Fort Jennings this past winter. (DHI Media/ Wyatt Richardson)

CONVOY — In high school sports it’s not at all unusual for a player’s parent to also fill the role as the player’s coach. This relationship presents both great experiences and unique challenges for both the coach and the player.

Crestview senior-to-be Lexi Gregory and junior-to-be Bailey Gregory get a double-dose — the three-sport athletes are coached in volleyball by their mother, Tammy Gregory, and in basketball by their father, Mark Gregory.

Only in softball do the sisters “escape” to the tutelage of a non-parent, that being Carl Etzler, who once coached his own daughters, Alisha (CHS Class of 2006) and Kristen (CHS Class of 2017).

Lexi and Bailey have two younger sisters who have also been coached by Dad and Mom in both sports. Cali is a two-sport athlete and will enter the eighth grade while Kaci is a three-sport athlete going into the fifth grade.

Recent interviews with four members of the Gregory family and with Carl Etzler give us some insights into the challenges and rewards of these relationships.

“I think the role of a coach’s daughter would be similar to that of a preacher’s daughter — the expectations of being a preacher’s kid, the expectations of being a coach’s kid,” said Etzler, concisely summing up perhaps the biggest challenge for a player in this situation.

Lexi and Bailey are scholar athletes and have each earned all-conference honors in all three sports. Bailey is the more talkative of the two; Lexi is more likely to keep her feelings to herself. Both, however, fill team leadership roles, albeit in different ways.

“Mark and I are very competitive, and the girls are like that too,” says Tammy. “We want to win, and we want to win every game. We hate losing; therefore we are going to give 110 percent at all times. Tournament time is my all-time favorite. I’ll go to a boys sporting event where I have no son and still be so focused into that game. If we lose, I struggle just the same, along with my entire family.

Does such competitiveness present extra challenges for the coach/daughter relationship? Oh, yeah, agreed all four Gregory’s. A big part of maintaining a somewhat even keel is the family’s “24-hour rule“ which says that, win or lose, once the family leaves the gym after the game, the parents don’t discuss it with the daughters for 24 hours — unless a daughter specifically asks.

“They (our parents) do a really good job of keeping the game in the gym,” says Lexi. “When we go home, we’re still family. After the game, there’s 24 hours, and then after that we talk about everything if we really want to. They let all the tension settle, and I think that really helps.”

All three coaches — Tammy Gregory, Mark Gregory, and Carl Etzler — agreed without hesitation upon one thing.

“No doubt about it, I’m harder on them (the daughters),” said Mark. “I don’t try to be, but it’s just natural that you expect more out of them because of all the time they spend in the gym. I think you just hold them to a higher standard, even though it’s probably not fair.”

It is, however, a whole new ballgame, so to speak, in the spring.

“My parents as coaches are always nicking on something that I’m not doing well,” says Bailey. “But in softball it’s just cool having my parents out there supporting us, rather than on the bench with us. It’s just different having our parents in the stands.”

On the other hand, two of the coaches, Tammy Gregory and Carl Etzler, agreed that you compliment the daughters less than you compliment other players.

“I feel like I give my own girls less recognition,” said Tammy. “I catch myself doing it all the time. Sometimes they’re like ‘Did I do anything right today?’ They hear a lot of the negative things. Sometimes I go home thinking, ‘Gosh, that was a really nice play, and I don’t think I acknowledged it.’”

“When you’re coaching your daughter, during the game you have to be a coach, not a father,” said Etzler, citing as an example when his daughter would hit a homer, he as third base coach would want to jump up and down, but had to settle for high-fiving her as she rounded third, just as he would any other player. “Your celebrating with them has to be at home after the game, not during the game.”

In addition to the challenges, though, there are special rewards for the parent/coach and for the player.

“Before I even took this job, I asked them what their thoughts were,” says Mark. “They said they would love it because of all the time we would get to spend together. That made my heart melt when they said that.”

“I loved coaching Kristen and Alisha, because it allowed me to be around them more,” says Etzler. “We were together. Our daddy/daughter time was always around softball. In 2017 after Kristen was gone (to college at Ohio State), I think I was grieving the whole year.”

Also, of course, there’s the advantage of the players’ access to facilities and to individual attention from the coach/parent.

For the three-sport athlete, the schedule can be almost overwhelming. For example, during the first three weeks of June, Lexi and Bailey are involved in one way or another with a conditioning workout on Monday morning, open gym competitive basketball on Monday evening, two Acme softball games on Tuesday, volleyball on Wednesday, two more Acme softball games on Thursday, and basketball tournaments on Friday, sometimes on Saturday as well. There’s more.

“Our family does a really good thing,” said Lexi. “On Sundays our whole family will come in, we’ll do a little bit of volleyball, a little bit of basketball, and a little bit of softball. Two girls in the cage, two girls down on the floor.”

“We’re always working,” says Bailey. “When softball tournament started, my uncle Dave Springer and cousin Tony Springer threw us some in the cage, and while the other one was in the cage, Dad was hitting fly balls and grounders to us.”

The family does, however, get a respite.

“We shut down the last week of June and the first week of July, and we take advantage of it,” says Tammy. “We load up and we go to Florida. They need that time to refocus, to rest their bodies, because when we come back it’s all volleyball.”

“I feel that Lexi and Bailey handle themselves very well as the coach’s kid,” says Tammy. “They’re both leaders in their own way. They know that we’re going to keep pushing them harder, and they, in turn, continue to show us much respect. They were in the gym at practices and games before they could even walk. They’ve really become so knowledgeable about the game. You always have the pros and cons, but I feel the girls have proven themselves with their overall play.”

Mark Gregory is a graduate of Mount Vernon High School and Mount Vernon Nazarene University where he played basketball and graduated in 1996. He was an assistant boys basketball coach at Crestview for many years before taking over the girls team in the 2016-17 season. He is an account manager for Coburn Carton Solutions.

Tammy Gregory (nee Custer) is a Crestview grad and played volleyball at Mount Vernon Nazarene, where she met Mark. She graduated from MVNU in 1998. After several years as an assistant coach in volleyball and girls basketball, she became the head volleyball coach in 2006. She was selected as the Northwest Conference Coach of the Year in 2009, 2011, 2014, 2017, and 2018. Tammy is an administrative assistant in human resources at Vancrest Health Care Center in Van Wert.

Carl Etzler graduated from CHS in 1978 and from Rhodes State College in 1981. He was an assistant softball coach at Crestview under three different head coaches starting in 2003, then took over the reins in 2014. During his tenure at Crestview, the Knights won state championships in 2005, 2012, and 2016. His daughter Alisha was a junior on the 2005 team, his daughter Kristen a junior on the 2016 team. Etzler was the NWC Coach of the Year in 2014 and 2016. Etzler is a financial professional with Thrivent Financial.

Lexi Gregory loves all three sports equally and hasn’t yet decided which one she’ll pursue in college. Bailey Gregory clearly prefers volleyball, and she hopes to play it in college.