PORTSMOUTH — If you watch closely, during every one of Clay’s free throw attempts, senior point guard Sky Artis has a conversation with her dad, Scott.
It’s not an off-court chat … Scott just happens to be Artis’ head coach as well and, whether it’d be his daughter or anyone else playing that position, those conversations would still take place.
But make no mistake about it; they’re certainly a bit more special with Sky standing next to him.
“I think part of it for me is that she’s my point guard,” Scott said. “I look at it more as that because regardless of who my point guard would be, I’d be doing the same. Everything I want to happen on the court, I can pass it along. It’s pretty cool. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy it.”
And, even though Scott has told Sky in the past that playing her position may not put the two in the best plausible situation sometimes as a father-daughter combo, Sky wouldn’t change it for the world.
“I wouldn’t want to play any other position,” Sky said. “[Scott] has always told me that I wouldn’t want to be the point guard. But it’s what I do best. Most things we agree on.”
Before Sky entered high school, Scott had been her and her teammates’ head coach since their third grade year. When they became freshmen, that was no longer the case.
“They had a varsity coach at the time and it was good to kind of turn them over to someone else,” Scott said. “That first year was kind of hard. I was still used to telling her what I wanted to see and what I wanted her to do. So it was hard at first, trying to take a backseat. But it transitioned into more of supporting her than telling her what she was doing wrong.”
When Scott was named as Clay’s newest coach during this past offseason, Sky and her teammates couldn’t have picked a better candidate themselves.
“It was hard coming into high school because [Scott] always sat behind the bench and I wanted to listen to him more than I did my own coach,” Sky said, chuckling. “I loved it when I found out he was going to be the head coach. A lot of people joke with me and ask if I hate it or if it causes arguments. Of course that happens sometimes. But there’s no one else I’d rather play for.”
And it’s not just his own daughter that likes playing for Scott. Her teammates share the same sentiments.
“We all really like him as a coach,” Sky said. “It’s always been that way. I think this year has been a lot easier because it’s good to have a coach, especially senior year, that knows you so well. I think that’s why he has a good bond with me and all of my teammates.”
The bond between Scott and Sky has always been better than good. Throughout Sky’s elementary and middle school years, her dad was right there to provide advice as a coach and support as a parent.
Playing two different roles — especially two in the life of a student-athlete — can be tricky.
But it’s a line Scott has toed for quite some time.
“The car rides were way more intense in middle school,” Scott said. “Now, it’s bus rides. So we have more time to think opposed to just reacting. We’ll sit down and I’ll tell her what I think she did wrong. Sometimes that’s hard because it’s both the role of a parent and a coach at the same time. You want to be supportive but at the same time, you have to get the message across. But most of our conversations are about what we did wrong as a team, not as an individual.”
Most of those car rides and bus trips have came during a time of success. Clay’s senior class — consisting of Sky, Sophia Balestra, Cameron DeLotell, Hannah Pauley, and Jensen Warnock — have won a countless of number of games at each level they’ve played at.
This year has been no different as the Panthers sit at 10-5 overall with a 7-2 mark in SOC I play.
But wins and losses sometimes take a backseat to actually enjoying one last ride together as players and coach.
“The last three years, in my opinion, I don’t think we’ve played to our potential,” Sky said. “Our goal this year was to play how we used to with our old coach … when we all had so much fun and couldn’t wait to get on the floor. I wanted to bring that back my senior year.”
Scott agrees which, like Sky said, usually happens.
“In sixth grade, we lost like two games,” Scott said. “Now we’ve lost several players from that team and that’s been our biggest thing. But we knew where we could get to. We knew how good we were. I think that we hope to get that magic back. I didn’t really have expectations, I had hopes of what I knew they were capable of. I’ve approached it one game at a time. We want to win each game and if we do, we move onto the next.”
The next game, the next win and, of course, the next mid-free-throw-attempt discussion … before you know it, those will be things of the past.
Scott and Sky are just looking to enjoy those little moments while they can.
“Number one, I want them to enjoy it. I want them to realize what’s going on. This is their senior year and you don’t get another one of those,” Scott said. “But at the same time, we’re all competitive and we know what we’re capable of. We’re hoping for some big things and we’re going to work our hardest to try and get there.”
Reach Derrick Webb at (740) 353-3101, ext. 1930, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @dw1509.