BLOOMINGTON — Coaches with sons or daughters on their teams must walk a fine line.
Debbie Coffman, for one, has never wanted to show favoritism nor be overly critical of her daughter Bailey as a member of Central Catholic High School’s girls basketball team.
As the Coffmans have helped the Saints go 71-25 the past four years, Debbie has leaned on a reliable motto: “They are all considered my daughters, not just Bailey.”
For years, the Coffmans have maintained a strong relationship by avoiding the topic of basketball at home.
"Freshman year coming in, I wasn't exactly sure what to expect," Bailey said, "but we do a good job of keeping basketball and our mother-daughter relationship separate."
In that regard, the Coffmans have two important advisers in assistant coach Mendy Smith and Debbie’s husband, Mike.
“He’s the middleman," Debbie said.
Smith has been an assistant for 21 years.
"Whenever I need to go to someone and Mom is off the list, (Smith) is the next one," said Bailey, a 6-foot-1 forward with 940 career points.
A Pantagraph All-Area first-team star last season, Bailey has helped the Saints get off to a 3-1 start this year by averaging 16.0 points and 5.8 rebounds. Her 198 career blocks rank second in school history behind Rachel Galligan.
“She’s very smart on the court,” Debbie said. “She’s been around basketball for a long time. She’s hard to stop going to the basket.”
Many of Bailey’s runs to the rim include the Euro step, a maneuver she has spent considerable time polishing.
“Having a big brother (in Braxton) that played ... going against him in the driveway has made her a lot better as well,” Debbie said.
Also helping Bailey shine has been fellow four-year starter Lauren Shanks, who is averaging 11.0 points and has 1,157 for her career.
“You can tell they’ve played together for so long," Debbie said. "They know where each other is going.”
Bailey also has gone out for volleyball and softball. In volleyball, she was on the 2015 state title team and the 2016 fourth-place squad. In softball, she's helped win three regionals. Her sophomore year included a state runner-up finish in basketball.
“I think it’s made her an all-around better player,” Debbie said of Bailey's three-sport career. “She’s always put her high school teams first.”
The strong right arm Bailey developed in softball and volleyball has come in handy for outlet passes.
“I feel like playing multiple sports helps you to become a better teammate more than anything," she said. "As long as I can remember, I've been playing three sports. To give one up ... I could never do it."
Moments of feeling burned out have been fleeting.
"Every time I want a break, I get my break and then I want to do something," Bailey said. "I'll have a day off and I'm like 'I better go shoot.' It just doesn't feel right to not be playing a sport."
As Bailey searches for a college to play basketball (and perhaps softball), Debbie hopes Bailey continues to ramp up her physical style of play and outside shooting touch.
A future business major, Bailey is considering Illinois Wesleyan and Millikin among others.
As for Debbie's 21-year career as a head coach (she was an assistant for three years), she is 472-130 with an eye on 500 wins. Bailey credits that success to her mother's ability to connect with kids.
"It's just such a great team atmosphere," Bailey said. "I've seen it for my whole life watching her coach."
Looking farther ahead, Debbie sees John Snyder’s school record of 560 wins in boys basketball as a number to chase.
“Maybe I want to surpass him,” she said. “I’m not quite sure. I don’t see an end right now, but you never know.”
Bailey has seen many former Saints return as assistant coaches, a sure sign they've been treated like daughters. When the actual daughter was asked if she'd return to help coach, Bailey said, "Maybe someday."