Wards enjoying rare coaching dynamic
By ERIC PLUMMER
SANDPOINT — Plenty of parents have coached their kids in various sports over the years, but hardly any grandparents have.
But don’t tell that to Duane Ward, who is now in the third year coaching his granddaughter Taylor Ward, the last two ending with a third place trophy at state.
If you’re looking for more homespun Bulldogs, you’ll be hard-pressed to beat this pair, as Duane Ward played for the Bulldogs back in the 1950s, his kids played a generation later and now his grandkids are wearing Bulldog red.
He was lured back to the sidelines three years ago after many previous stints coaching teams at every level of his hometown, largely because of the chance to coach Taylor. Like many familial coaching stories, this one contains a familiar theme.
“At times I push her harder than I need to and get after her more than the other kids. It’s developed a stronger bond between us,” admits Ward. “It’s helped me to get to know her better, and her to get to know me better. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”
It helps that Taylor is the kind of player any coach would love, same family name or otherwise. A classic glue player, her value is tough to measure in stats.
After all, they don’t keep tallies for things like diving to the floor, taking charges, deflecting balls that go off the other team, or playing perfect help-side defense when needed.
But grandpa notices those things.
“Defense, rebounding, she gets on the floor and competes hard,” he says. “All of the intangibles that coaches like.”
For her part, Taylor has had to bite her tongue a time or two, resisting the inclination to speak to grandpa like she might at a family barbecue, especially when he gets on her.
“He’s very demanding, and I’m not allowed to yell back. Sometimes I feel like he asks so much and I’m not up for it,” concedes Taylor, admitting it can get stressful at times. “I want to please him and work really hard.”
But the same consternation the family ties engender also works in an entirely positive way, as the two know each other far better than the average coach and player.
“He knows me really well,” says Taylor. “He understands how I play and how to use it to the advantage of the team.”
The two will always have a great memory from the district championship, when Duane pulled Taylor aside for a talk, and then danced in front of the whole team in celebration.
“After we won districts he jumped in a circle and sang ‘we’re going to state,’” recalls Taylor. “There’s a video on twitter.”
The two are also bound to share a few more memories, starting today at state. Whether the tournament ends with a dance, or tears, the pair will always have a unique memory to share.
“It really kind of hit me towards the end of the year how lucky I am to be able to do that,” admits Ward of coaching Taylor, recalling a funny incident from earlier in the season. “I yelled at her and she hollered back and called me grandpa. I said ‘don’t call me grandpa. Call me coach.’”