Three Baylor athletes play for parents

By Larissa Campos and Ryan Daugherty
Reporters published the Ten Commandments for Parents of Athletes. Number 3 on the list: Don’t coach your child. Three coaches in the Baylor Athletic program have had to ignore this rule as they took on the role of being coach and parent to one or more of their children.

Head coach Kim Mulkey of the two-time National Champion Lady Bears Basketball team has made a name for herself in the world of collegiate women’s basketball. She is known for her intensity and competitiveness on the sidelines of the basketball court to anyone who knows her as Coach Mulkey. But to those who call her mom, she is a laid back, easygoing comedian who loves to spend time with her family.

Junior guard Makenzie Robertson has played basketball under her mother, Mulkey, for the past three years and knows both sides of Mulkey well.

“In every aspect of her life, as both a mom and a coach she is a driven woman with high standards and a loving heart,” Robertson said.

Growing up, Robertson was always encouraged by her mom to pursue anything she wanted. When she took a liking to sports, Mulkey would give her advice but stay away from the coaching role for most of her childhood. It wasn’t until Robertson reached Baylor that her mom stepped in as her coach and a new relationship between the two was born.

“There were other schools that recruited me, but I think all along I knew I would end up at Baylor with my mom,” said Robertson. “Even as a child I planned to play for her no matter where she was coaching.”

Robertson admits there are some awkward times when she has had to keep quiet when receiving criticism during practice since she is so used to talking back if she were talking to her mom and not her coach. But after three years of practice, the relationship between them on and off the court has improved and it is getting easier to hold her tongue.
“We have an understanding that no matter what is said she, will always love me and I should never take it to heart,” Robertson said.

Associate head football coach Brian Norwood has coached his son Levi since 2010, and prior to his time at Baylor, he coached at Penn State where his older son, Jordan, also played for him. Brian Norwood has had years of practice at switching between the roles of coach and parent with his two sons, but Levi Norwood said it took some time to adjust to his dad being his coach.

“I guess the most frustrating thing about playing for your dad is people think that’s the only reason you’re on the team,” Levi Norwood said. “There are a lot of people who are surprised that I actually play.”

Levi Norwood said that since his dad coaches defense, and since he plays offense, it makes the situation easier since they don’t interact with each other directly. Coach Norwood is the safeties coach for Baylor, and Levi Norwood plays inside receiver. The most interaction they get on the practice field is when Levi Norwood makes a good play and beats his dad’s players. When it happens, he will run over to make sure his dad didn’t miss the play.

“Ill always run over and flip the ball at him or say something when I beat his players,” Levi Norwood said. “But he does the same to me when I get tackled or his guys make a good play. It’s all in good fun.”

Sophomore right-handed pitcher Ryan Smith has been on the Bears’ baseball team for two seasons. However, he isn’t the only person in his family who is a part of the team. His father, Steve Smith, is the head coach of the team.

Steve Smith has been the Bears’ head coach since 1994 after an assistant coaching stint at Mississippi State. Ryan Smith said he has always had a liking for Baylor ever since his father’s first season in 1995.

“I’ve grown up a Baylor Bear fan ever since,” Ryan Smith said. “I have always wanted to play here for him.”

Ryan Smith said he doesn’t view his father being the coach any differently than if anybody else were the coach.

“I don’t feel pressure to succeed because of him,” he said. “It’s more motivation to prove that I belong. Baylor baseball is my family, and I’m just trying to do everything in my power to help my family win.”

Many people would think that having a parent as the head coach would benefit the child. Ryan Smith said his father treats him just like every other player and does not feel any pressure when making decisions regarding his playing time.

“I am on the field when the game calls for it. He plays the best nine guys,” Ryan Smith said.

While Steve Smith is the head coach of the team, he is still Ryan Smith’s father. Ryan Smith said he benefits from that, and he wants to make his father proud.

“One benefit would be he already trusted me as a player and human being,” Ryan Smith said. “Another is just knowing my coaches as well as I did. How much of a better way to make your father proud then by helping him be successful in his career as well?”

On the other hand, when there is a game to be played, Ryan Smith said his father still performs his job the way a good coach should.

“When it comes game time, he is a coach first,” Ryan Smith said. “He obviously knows me better than the other pitchers, so we verbally communicate a little more than normal, but it’s strictly about the game and what we are trying to execute.”
There are several athletes that will reveal that they played for one of their parents at some point in their athletic career, even if it just was little league or peewee football. However, these three have developed a relationship that allows them to conquer the challenges of being a player to their parent at the college level.