Patrick Ryan is used to cheering on his daughters.
But recently, he found himself in the unusual situation of coaching against them.
Ryan is a first-year head coach for the Stanwood High School softball team. His daughters — senior Riley Ryan and freshman Reagan Ryan — are both starters for Arlington.
So when the Spartans and Eagles squared off in their annual league matchup Monday, it was quite an experience for the Ryan family.
“It was very strange,” Patrick said. “It was the first time I think I had ever watched either of my kids in the batter’s box and not given them encouragement in between pitches.
“Wanting to win the game, but also wanting to see both my kids have success, definitely was one of the more conflicting experiences I’ve ever had.”
In the weeks leading up to the game, Patrick and his daughters dished some friendly trash talk to one another around the house.
The daughters ended up with the bragging rights, helping Arlington to a 10-0 victory over their father’s team.
“There was quite a bit of jawing going on — talking to each other and telling them how I was gonna pitch them and how I could get them out,” Patrick said.
“I definitely wanted to come home and be able to talk smack and let them know that dad’s still in charge around here,” he added. “But that certainly didn’t happen that day.”
Riley played left field for the Eagles and Reagan played first base. Riley had a successful day at the plate, finishing 2-for-3 against her father’s team.
“We stuck to the plan and we were able to get Reagan, but Riley really didn’t allow us to affect her,” Patrick said. “… Riley did a nice job going with the pitches that we gave her.”
Patrick has helped coach a number of Riley’s teams over the years, so the older daughter is used to having her father around the diamond. But Riley said it was strange to see her father on the opposing side.
“It was fun to be able to be on the same field as him,” Riley said. “But this time I wasn’t with him — I was going against him — so that was really weird for me. I was a lot more nervous than usual, for some weird reason. I just wanted to beat him.”
Patrick, a Stanwood High School alum, played baseball at Skagit Valley College in the early 2000s. He began coaching softball about six years ago, when Riley took up the sport at age 12.
Since then, Patrick has coached several of Riley’s travel teams. He also spent the past three seasons as a volunteer assistant coach in the Arlington High School program.
So in addition to facing his daugthers, Patrick was squaring off against a number of other players and coaches he’d shared the dugout with in recent years.
“It was interesting to be on the other side — to go against all of them,” Patrick said.
Patrick and his wife, Cathy, raised their kids in Arlington. But about a year ago, the family moved to Stanwood.
This past February, the Stanwood head coaching position opened up. Patrick said his family played a major role in encouraging him to pursue the job.
“Over the years through coaching (Riley), I developed a love myself for coaching and being around the game,” Patrick said.
“We had a discussion sitting around the house, and (they) were really supportive,” he added. “… They totally convinced me that I needed to (pursue it). And so I applied for the job, and here we are today.”
Despite their family’s move to Stanwood, the daughters decided to stay at Arlington High School. It gave them the opportunity to play one season of high school ball together.
Reagan began playing softball at about the same time as her older sister. Over the years, she has occasionally played up on Riley’s teams.
And this spring, the two sisters have helped the Eagles to an 8-2 start and a 5-1 mark in Wesco 3A/2A play.
“It’s so awesome to have Reagan on the team,” Riley said. “I love playing with my sister, and it’s so cool that she’s getting to experience varsity softball with me as a freshman. It’s just been really fun. I love playing with her.”