When not going to battle himself, Major Shane Yates has relished in the years spent watching his son Travis battle on the football field.
--In the second part of our two-part Father & Son Series, examining the relationship between two OLu football father-son duos, we look at the relationship between OLu Athletic Chaplain Major Shane Yates and his son, senior lineman Travis Yates.
By Maddy Dwyer
Orange Lutheran Athletic Chaplain Major Shane Yates has spent years on the battlefield, serving our country.
But he and members of his family have also served on a different type of battleground: the football field.
For years, instead of putting on his military uniform, Major Yates suited up in his Orange Lutheran football gear alongside his son Travis, who a month ago finished his senior football campaign. Together, Major Yates and Travis embody the tough nature of football and believe in attacking any challenge with a sense of fearlessness.
And with that approach to life in mind - something they like to call their “warrior spirit” - the Yates duo has cultivated a union, on and off the field, unlike any other.
Since Travis was 6 years old, Major Yates and his son have spent what seems like decades together on the football field. But for Travis, one memory in particular seems to stick out.
“It was my first practice and I was getting smacked around,” Travis said. “My dad looked at me and said, ‘Act like someone is trying to beat up your brother.’
“I’m never going to forget that.”
‘Protect your brother’ is a lesson taught by Major Yates to his children through actions more than words.
Shane is a major in the United States Army, and his oldest son, T.J., is a Staff Sergeant and Purple Heart recipient. Both have been deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq since 2009.
Of the past seven years of Travis’ life, Major Yates has been deployed during three of them, including during his sophomore year of high school.
For Travis and the Lancers football squad, over the last two years in which Major Yates has been home, he has played a key role as the team’s source of encouragement.
“When our team is getting down, he doesn’t just focus on me,” Travis said. “He brings up everyone.”
If ever there were a personification of the team’s motto INAM - It’s Not About Me - it would be Major Yates, who makes it to as many practices and games as he can when not serving the country.
The selflessness displayed by Major Yates is something that the entire team learns from and respects, especially Travis.
“He gets to see me in my game and practice mode and I get to see him in his work mode at home,” Travis said. “We are able to keep each other focused on where we need to succeed.”
They both agreed that being on the field together has only strengthened their father-son relationship. Travis says that the Yates family aims to hold each other accountable for their actions, and in times of struggle, they lean on each other for support.
Major Yates applies this principle to his second oldest son on the gridiron and at home.
“On the football field, we have to deal a lot with adversity and that helps us deal with home issues, too, because we have already learned how to deal with adversity together.”
Despite enjoying his son’s high school football years, Major Yates said that his favorite aspect of Travis’ football career has been watching him mature through the years.
“I’ve been able to see the growth in him maturity wise; not just getting bigger but watching him grow as a young man. I have got to see him take the skills that he has learned on the field and use them at home as well.”
Travis, who will leave in July to begin his college football career at Montana State, said that he and his dad are almost identical. They have a similar personality and being able to work together has helped them develop their relationship beyond just father and son.
“We have the same thought process and the same switch that goes off when we know something needs to get done.”
In terms of their relationship when it comes to football, when working with people, both agree there will always be times of discord. However, as Major Yates and Travis have become accustomed to doing, they each find the silver lining in conflict and say that their few disagreements often result in growth individually.
“I don’t always like being told what to do and sometimes, he has one way he wants to do things and I have my own,” Travis said. “But his view is helpful because it’s the more traditional view of football. Sometimes his way of teaching something is better than what I thought would work.”
“It strengthens us through,” Major Yates said. “The bond of adversity; the wins and the losses. Being humble in the success and being humbled by the loss is important in learning how to fight through the issues and gain a ‘never quit’ type of mentality.
“Football is one of those unique sports that requires a certain level of aggression, heart, and willingness to fight through pain,” Major Yates added. “It brings out the deep warrior spirit in you, that one-on-one physical fight.”
Over the years, Travis has admired and aimed to replicate the dedication and focus that his father has displayed to the military to the sport of football.
“He has always been there to support me and remind me to go at 110%. Being able to leave his family for the military for years has shown me his passion for his job and his strength. And it’s inspired me.
“If he can do that, then I can get up at 6 a.m. for practice.”