By Matt Palmer Staff Writer

Coaching a son can be a complicated task.

How much playing time does he deserve? How do I separate the coach and the father? If I start my son, what will other players' parents say, and how will I deal with that?

These are just a few of the questions several northwest Oklahoma football coaches have been forced to answer, weighing the pros and cons of coaching their children.

Alva coach Steve Gale is in his second year of coaching twin sons, sophomores Mitchell and Tyson.

"It's special," coach Gale said.

Both of Steve Gale's sons start for the Class 2A No. 8-ranked Goldbugs (8-0).

Mitchell commands the offense at quarterback, completing 67 of 103 passes for 945 yards, 12 touchdowns and four interceptions through seven games. Meanwhile, Tyson has 60 tackles, including 10 stops for loss and four sacks, at defensive back over the same span.

Before coaching his sons, coach Gale sought advice from other coaches who had done the same.

"They said the best thing to do is leave the sports on the field unless the son brings it up," he said.

The philosophy of separating the coach from the father has worked so far for Steve Gale, and several area coaches agree that is the way to go.

Okeene coach Jeff Wardlaw said he has relied heavily on his 22-year coaching experience to create a fair atmosphere for his son, starting quarterback junior Brady Wardlaw. Coach Wardlaw also has a freshman football-playing son, Brock.

Brady has helped lead the Whippets to a 6-1 record this season.

"I enjoy coaching my sons," Jeff Wardlaw said. "That's probably the reason I'm still coaching and not in full-time administration. I've taken so many years coaching other people's kids, and now I have the opportunity to spend more time with my own kids."

Jeff Wardlaw also believes in separating home life from football but said it's not always possible.

"We do a good job of not taking it home, but it's still there," he said. "But I don't think it's been a bad thing."

Still, balancing father-son with coach-player is only a piece of the puzzle.

The other part, the potentially more volatile part, deals with the public eye -- more importantly, the other parents' eyes.

Preferential treatment always is a concern in high school sports, but that concern is magnified when the starting quarterback's father happens to be the head coach.

Sometimes the situation can lead to complaints from angry parents.

"You take it personal, but you know the reason why you do what you," Steve Gale said. "I hope everybody understands we do what we do because it gives us the best opportunity to be successful."

"I agree with that 100 percent," coach Wardlaw said. "You spend a lot of time with those kids. You get to know those kids and feel for them. A coach is going to do what's best for the team."

Steve Gale said if complaints get too bad, he would call a conference to work things out, but he said things have not come to that.

Jeff Wardlaw said he hasn't heard any complaints from parents about his decision to start Brady. He also said the team's success this season has made a difference.

Alva's undefeated record and shot at a district championship hasn't hurt coach Gale's situation, either.

But Cherokee coach Steve Hickman had a different experience playing his son, Jeremy, at starting quarterback from 1991-94.

During those four years, the Chiefs had a 10-30 record, missing the playoffs every year.

"It never was a problem because he worked harder than everyone else in the weight room," coach Hickman said. "Everything was 100 percent in practice.

"There might have been some complaining, but it never made it to me anyway."

Jeremy Hickman was named District B-1 most valuable player and MVP of the 8-man all-star game his senior year, a 3-7 campaign for the Chiefs.

After weighing all the factors, all three coaches said it has been a worthwhile venture.

"So far, it's been a real positive experience," said Jeff Wardlaw.

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