Coach Monterio Witherspoon and his son, Josh Witherspoon, have spent the past four years at OLu, growing as a father and son, and as a coach and player.
In the first part of our two-part Father & Son Series, examining the relationship between two OLu football father-son duos, we look at the relationship between offensive line coach Monterio Witherspoon and his son, senior lineman Josh Witherspoon.
Part 2 will feature Athletic Chaplain Major Shane Yates and his son, senior lineman Travis Yates.
By Maddy Dwyer
From belting out soulful songs in chapel to coaching the football team on the gridiron sidelines, Offensive Line Coach Monterio Witherspoon always puts 100 percent of his heart into every task he takes on.
And luckily, he’s been able to instill that some work ethic into his son Josh, a senior at Orange Lutheran.
The “Spoon” duo, comprised of Coach Witherspoon and Josh - affectionately known by the monikers ‘Coach Spoon’ and ‘Spoon’, respectively - are more than just the coach and player you see on the field on Fridays. They share a special father-son bond that has only been substantiated by their beloved game of football.
Josh, who played on the offensive and defensive line during his four years at OLu, has been playing football for 14 years. When asked what role football plays in his life, he had no problem describing just what the game has meant to him for over a decade.
“It definitely is my passion. I have so much love for the game of football and if it wasn’t for my passion for the sport, I don’t think I would still be playing now.”
This passion has, in part, been cultivated by his father. Football connects the two Spoons. From coaching and playing on Fridays, to watching the Dallas Cowboys - their favorite NFL team - on Sundays, this father and son pair have been able to share their love of football together.
Coach Spoon arrived at OLu in 2013, the same year as his son. And in the four years since, he has been able to watch Josh grow as a player. However, it wasn't until Josh’s second year that his father took an active role in coaching him at the lineman position.
“In tenth grade, my dad began coaching me,” Josh said. “He started telling me what to do and gave me a lot of teaching points to help my game, and I realized he really knows a lot about football.”
Through his father’s teachings and his personal experience, Josh took the knowledge from his sophomore year and carried it over into his junior and senior year. Prior to graduation this year, Josh hopes to secure a scholarship to play on the collegiate level.
Head Coach Chuck Petersen has watched the two Witherspoons and the affects one has on the other on a daily basis.
"On game nights, it was fun to see their interaction on the sideline," Petersen said. "Josh is very driven and competitive but very laid back. Monterio is also driven and competitive, but very vocal and demanding. I think Josh calmed him down some and Monterio fanned a fire that was already lit in Josh. Their relationship works because of the love that is evident between both of them.
The balance that one provides for the other is what describes Coach Spoon and Josh’s relationship. Though not often, the coaching and dad roles that the elder Spoon takes on sometimes diverge on the field.
“Sometimes I have to take the coaching hat off and pull him to the side to tell him something as a dad,” Coach Spoon said. “I try and tread on it lightly because I have heard so many stories of guys coaching their kids and ruining their relationships with them. So, I have tried not to do that. Sometimes when I do speak to him and it comes out with fire it’s because I have held off for so long.”
It takes a special kind of father to master this balance, but Coach Spoon has of course, put 100 percent of his effort into making sure that his personal relationship with his son remains paramount.
In turn, the two Spoons’ relationship off the field has certainly helped their dynamic on the field. Coach Spoon has been able to set his expectations for his son at home on a daily basis, which makes it easier for Josh to carry them into school and into the game.
“We created a call at home, so that when he hears me yell it, he knows I’m talking to him.”
Little things, such as their call, make it easier for them to jive together as a player and coach.
The dynamic between the duo is indeed something special. They both described it as “having a presence.” Whenever Coach Spoon gets a chance to watch his son during a game, at practice, or even sometimes at school, he takes it.
For Josh, it’s not always easy knowing that his dad is watching him so closely, on and off the field.
“It sucks sometimes because he expects me to go 100 percent every single play even when I get extremely tired,” Josh said with a laugh. “When I don’t, he gets on me in front of all my friends, which embarrasses me sometimes. I get through it though.
“But it’s good to have him on the field coaching me. I know I can always go to him.”
Over the past four years, their father-son bond has only gotten stronger. As their last season together came to a close, Coach Witherspoon said, “It’s been good having him around. Football usually takes coaches away from their kids, so it’s been a blessing that I get to be with mine.”
Josh has learned many things in the midst of his father coaching him, but he said that the greatest lesson is to give 100 percent at all times.
This lesson he learned as a player, Josh has taken far beyond the field. Through hours of practice and late nights at the field, Josh and his dad will be able to cherish the memories they have made together and will always be able to keep their special bond created by the game of football.