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Making it work

The Sedlacks don't let the roles of coach and point guard come before father and son.

By FRANK PASTOR
© St. Petersburg Times
published November 24, 2002


BROOKSVILLE -- John Sedlack waited his whole life for something he had been doing for 13 years.

Coaching his son, Andy.

John made sure Andy had a basketball before Andy was 3. He lowered the basket at the family's first house so Andy could reach it. He coached Andy's YMCA team and occasionally worked with his group at camps.

But it wasn't until two years ago, when Andy was a freshman at Central, that his father truly became his coach.

Now, as Andy enters his junior season, time is running out on what father and son consider the experience of a lifetime. Andy is the starting point guard and co-captain of a Central squad coached by his father.

"We've got two years of this left," John said. "We waited our whole life for this, so we're going to try to make the best we can of it."

John had some concerns at first. A starting guard at Queens (N.Y.) College in the late 1960s, he understands that point guard is the most demanding position on the court. No spot is more crucial to a team's success -- or incurs as much wrath from its coach.

"You're expected to be the coach on the floor," John said. "Everybody turns to you for leadership. The first thing you're going to hear from the coach is, 'The team's not running what we want. You have to get it done.'

"You have to earn the respect of the guys you're on the floor with. You've got to be a tough kid, because you get a lot of the blame."

John worried that Andy's position -- coupled with his own competitive nature -- might ruin the experience for his son.

"I guess my biggest fear was being much tougher on him than the other kids," John said. "I think that's a constant battle because my expectations are so high."

Andy's sophomore season had its ups and downs. He started most of Central's games, but was pulled after a bad pass or a mental mistake. An 11-14 season that ended with a 64-30 loss to Leesburg in the district semifinals was a learning experience.

"I really got a firsthand look at what happens in good and bad situations," Andy said. "When you're positive, good things happen. When the team got down, we didn't do that well. I got to see both ends of the spectrum last year."

He also learned to accept criticism from his father.

"I expect him to get upset," Andy said. "When he does get upset, I just let it go in one ear and out the other and take the learning and hear what he says."

Andy will be expected to pass those lessons on to his teammates this year. After leaving the leadership duties to seniors Willie Winslett and Josh Scott last season, Andy and co-captains Chris Ortiz and Alex Ruoff will be asked to lead an unproven and largely inexperienced squad.

To prepare, Andy worked with coach Lance Jenkins in the offseason to increase his strength. His father said Andy has been more aggressive in practice.

"Over the last three years, if you see Andy, physically, it's a different kid right now," John said. "It's the same face, but it's a different physical appearance."

John admits that he puts a lot of pressure on his son. But to perform, not to play.

"I told Andy, if you ever come to a point where you don't want to play, just look me in the eye and be honest," John said.

The arrangement works in part because the two agreed not to take the game home with them. Unlike his father, Andy rarely watches basketball on television, preferring to watch cartoons. He set similar boundaries outside the house.

Last year, Andy was working on moves in the driveway when his father tried to offer pointers.

"Can't the driveway be my time?" Andy asked.

"You're right, it is your time," said John, who returned to the house to watch a game on TV.

"Andrew and I have a great relationship," John said. "We share so much together. We are really tight, but we have a tremendous father and son relationship. We're best friends, besides me being a father and a coach."

Basketball is a strong bond, but not their only one.

John and Andy enjoy boating -- though John prefers water skis to Andy's wakeboard -- and sometimes go to the movies together. Unlike many teenagers, Andy is not embarrassed to be seen with his father.

"One time I got a note from him: 'Thanks for being so cool with my friends,' " John said.

In time, John hopes to see his son fulfill his lifelong dream of becoming a veterinarian. He also would like to see Andy play college basketball, as he once did.

"I would love to see him have that opportunity," John said. "If he wants."

-- Frank Pastor can be reached at (800) 333-7505, ext. 1430. Send e-mail to pastor@sptimes.com .

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