When the Arlington ISD high school varsity football teams play each other, there’s no question: It’s a competition.
But off the field, the head football coaches across the district are actually pretty good friends.
“There's one night a year when we don't like each other very much, but the other 364 days, we care very deeply for each other, and I think that's one of the special things about Arlington ISD in the athletic program is our relationships,” said Scott Peach, head football coach at Arlington High School.
This season, five of the six football coaches at Arlington ISD high schools have at least one son in their football program.
“Arlington's a really unique situation in that we share a lot of information with each other and not just information about football,” Martin High School coach Bob Wager said.
Wager’s son Gage is a sophomore.
Peach’s son Cooper is a freshman.
Lamar High School head football coach Laban DeLay’s son Austin is a freshman.
Bowie High School head football coach Danny DeArman’s son Drew is a junior. DeArman also coached his older son Ty, who has graduated.
Seguin High School head football coach Joe Gordon has two sons currently in his football program: Xavier, a senior, and Diesel, a sophomore.
PHOTOS: 5 sons play football for dads at Arlington high schools
Sam Houston head football coach Anthony Criss already had three sons come through his football program.
“I always tell coaches this: If you have the opportunity to coach your kid, you need to coach your kid,” Criss said.
For all of these fathers, football is more than just a job, it's a passion.
“I can't imagine there being a better profession in the world. It's a blast every single day,” DeArman said. “It's not the easiest and it's stressful. But I can't imagine there being anything more fulfilling.”
Both DeArman and Gordon know what it’s like to have two sons in their football program at the same time.
“The time is not refundable,” Gordon said. “And so many times you want to get it right as a coach and as a father.”
Spending time with their sons can also mean reflecting on their own fathers and what they learned growing up.
“My dad passed away when I was three, and I swore if I did anything well in this lifetime, it would be that I would be a good dad,” Wager said. “I love [Gage] as a dad, first, and a coach, second.”
“I played for my father at Lamar High School, so I was a coach’s kid growing up. And there's something unique about being a coach’s kid. I could write a book. I've chosen not to, on what that dynamic looks like in life,” Peach said.
It’s not always easy being the coach’s kid, or coaching your own child.
“Every single decision that has anything to do with your son is going to be resented,” DeArman said. “There's a lot of the negative that you have to go through. And you have to learn to just block it out, which is hard to do because we're all human”
At the end of the day, DeArman said, every parent is worried about their son. That feeling is echoed by the other coaches.
“I’m not gonna hide the fact that I love him very much. I’m gonna hug him right in front of everybody. If he makes a big play, I’m going to be excited about it. And I’m not gonna spend one ounce of my time worrying about what anybody else thinks,” Wager said. “He gets what he earns, like every other player on our program here. And I'm just gonna enjoy this ride.”
In the end, all the coaches agree that nothing outweighs the joy they get coaching their sons.
“I would never trade it for anything. I don't think that there is another profession in this world that is better than being a high school coach coaching your son. It's the most rewarding profession that I can imagine,” DeArman said.
Gordon added that the blessings of the quality time he gets when his son far outweighs any challenges they face. It's a special time for all of the fathers.
“In the world that we're living in right now, there is not a ‘normal.’ And so, to have your family around you a lot, is pretty important and special,” DeLay said.
The coaches also don't take for granted the fact that their sons will soon move on and become more independent.
“As your boy grows up, he starts doing different things in his life, where you may not get the opportunity to be a part of everything. The fact that I get to be a part of that with him and his friends is really cool,” Peach said. “I can get a little emotional about it because it is a special thing. And until you get a chance to experience it, you don't know exactly what that feels like.”