Mansfield Legacy football coach Chris Melson looked down the sideline ahead of the Broncos’ regular-season finale this past Friday at Red Oak and saw his two sons.
That in itself wasn’t so strange – they’ve been coming to games since they could barely grip the ball. But what made this particular moment different — and special — was that both were in uniform.
“It was just really kind of neat and surreal, because they’ve both been to every Legacy game since they were little boys,” dad said. “Since they were four and five, they’ve been to every game.
“They’ve always wanted to be a player and be suited up. It was the first week that was able to happen. Just seeing them there with me was really a neat moment.”
Junior Jorden Melson, who spent most of the season on the JV, and sophomore Major Melson, a member of the sophomore squad, were both moved up for the playoff roster as Legacy heads into the postseason.
“It was a great experience,” Jorden said.
“It was really fun. I’ve been waiting for that for a long time and I look forward to keep doing it,” Major added. “It’s fun having him on the sidelines and getting to talk to my brother while watching the game.”
It can be a tricky balancing act, coaching your own children. It’s easy to imagine there always being some sentiment that coaches’ kids are afforded favoritism.
“People like to play the ‘you only play because of your dad card,’ but clearly everybody that knows what’s really happening knows we deserve when we play,” Major said.
Coach Melson, who has coached his entire adult life, understands that comes with the job.
“It’s always there. It doesn’t matter if it’s my own son or somebody else, somebody always thinks [that],” he said. “I understand my son is just another player on the team. He’ll get what he deserves and I trust my coaches’ decisions. I don’t push for my kids. I just push for the best player and the best people.”
If Melson needs any advice on coaching his sons at the high school level, he need not look very far. Just down the road at Lake Ridge, head coach Kirk Thor has worked with his own two sons — one who has already graduated and the other a senior this season.
“It’s been absolutely unbelievable. I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world,” Thor said. “It’s special to see your kids grow up. You’re with them every day and seeing them practice and develop. It’s a really hard balance to be coach and dad, but I think it’s a lot of fun.”
Thor also points out that in many cases, the notion that coaches’ kids are favored is quite the contrary.
“I think sometimes it was harder for them to have a dad as a coach because I gave them less than everybody else, because I didn’t want them to be the favored ones,” he said. “They had to earn a lot more than most kids did to get to where they are.”
Melson has watched others coach his boys since they started playing football in middle school. As a professional, he knows it’s important not to step over boundaries with his sons’ coaches — not that he’s ever needed to.
“Obviously, you have ways you’d like them to be coached and the things you believe in,” he said, while praising the coaching staffs at Jobe Middle School and Legacy. “I think it’s awesome to let them be coached by someone else. They don’t want to hear from dad. They love their coaches, so we let it go.”
The boys are looking forward to finally having dad as their coach, though.
“He gets the best out of us because he’s our dad,” Jorden said. “He knows how to make us work.”
Legacy faces a 9-1 Burleson team in the first round of the playoffs Friday at Farrington Field in Fort Worth. It will be the next of what all three hope is many more games together. Melson hopes so, as well.
“It’s a tough balance,” he said. “It can be a challenge, but it’s worth the challenge.”