The Post-Journal

Sibling Rivalry

Coaching basketball is no easy chore, but what if you have to coach against your brother or sister? Makes for a sticky situation, right? Chautauqua Girls Basketball Coach Eileen Sheesley and her brother Mel Swanson, the girls’ basketball coach at Sherman, agree. But once the game begins, they forget about family ties.

Mel admitted last Saturday after his team defeated his sister’s by 34 points that he forgets that the other coach is his sister when Chautauqua and Sherman meet. His sister agreed. “During the game it’s coach against coach,” Eileen said.

Mel said they have been coaching against each other in Division 3 for six years and they are about even. And then he made an interesting point. “We’ve never had to do any coaching against each other. We’ve never had a close game.”

Eileen again agreed. “We’ve always been far apart (in score).”

The first three years they faced each other, Chautauqua had a powerhouse team which won easily. For the last three seasons, Sherman has had the powerhouse while Chautauqua has been rebuilding.

Mel thought the closest score of the six seasons has been about a 14-or 15- point difference, but Eileen thought it was more like 20.

Are they looking forward to the day when the games are close? “Yeah, I am,” Swanson answered. “I think she is too.”

“I do look forward to that,” Eileen said about coaching a close game against her brother. And both think it might be next season.

Sherman will be losing all its height and Chautauqua will have all its players back. That means things will really get tough for Mel and Eileen’s parents, Mr. and Mrs. Earl Swanson of Ashville.

“I think it’s harder for our families,” Eileen said of the sibling coaching rivalry. “They want us both to do well.”

Mel explained that his parents usually root for the underdog, but Eileen said they sometimes split up and one roots for the son and the other for the daughter. “My sister roots for both.” She added.

Being opposing coaches produces interesting conversation at family gatherings. “All we talk about is basketball.” Eileen said. “That’s all we think about.”

But they don’t talk about Chautauqua-Sherman games. “We usually don’t talk about them – games against each other,” Mel pointed out. “It brings back bad memories.”

One advantage of being brother and sister coaches in the same division is swapping information about teams. “Yeah, we do that.” Mel said about exchanging scouting reports with his sister. “She gives me good scouting reports.”

“I think it’s helped him.” Eileen said of the information she’s given to Mel. But will they continue to exchange information if their teams are battling for first place? “I don’t think so.” Eileen answered. “Now it hasn’t mattered.”

This brother-sister coaching is a rarity, but in a way it is very similar to the situation of a father coaching his son. Many people think the father would have a tendency to be easier on his son, but I’ve had many coaches tell me they are tougher on their sons than the other players just because they don’t want to show favoritism.

And it is similar in the coaching situation of Mel and Eileen. Saturday Eileen wasn’t too pleased about the final score and had some heated words with her brother. He was in the same situation a few years ago when he was on the losing end by a large margin.

However, if it was just another coach, they might be more careful about what they say. But brothers and sisters usually don’t mince words.

Sibling rivalries never end, not even on the basketball court.


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