Jerry Pattison remembers it vividly.
His son, Donny, was only 4 years old at the time and had been called out at home plate during one of his t-ball games.
Just old enough to know the rules, he got up, was upset with the call and started to yell at the umpire.
“I’m pretty sure I picked him up and carried him over to the bench by his shirt and said he wasn’t going to play the rest of the game because you do not talk to adults like that,” Jerry Pattison recalled with a chuckle.
“My wife came over and asked what I was doing. And I said I was teaching him one of the best lessons he’s ever going to learn. You do not talk to adults or your coaches that way.”
It was the first of the many teaching moments Jerry has provided to his son in the 14 years since, most of which have taken place on the football field or the basketball court.
Jerry has coached Donny, who graduated from Bradford Area High School last Thursday, for nearly his entire life. For the past four years, he’s been Donny’s defensive coordinator in football as well as one of his assistant coaches in basketball.
“It’s easier to count the number of years I didn’t coach Donny,” Jerry remarked.
As Father’s Day approaches, both father and son sat down to reflect on the memories they’ve shared and the bond they’ve fostered over the years.
“He’s a friend outside of sports, too,” Donny said. “They always say you shouldn’t be friends with your dad, but he’s a good guy. I’d be friends with him.”
Donny and Jerry Pattison’s journey over the years have taken them through t-ball to Floyd C. Fretz Middle School to some of the biggest stages in District 9.
They’ve been a part of plenty of highs together as well as some lows, including back-to-back losses in the D-9 basketball title games.
“There were losses where we both knew what went wrong and there were no words that needed to be said,” Jerry said. “We spent so much time together that I knew when it was and wasn’t time.”
But both father and son say that they were able to put the coaching and the sports talk aside most days, though Donny admits it was neat to have his football coach sitting in the living room each morning after games to review film or discuss strategy.
“He was coaching during practices and games, but outside of that he was usually just my dad,” Donny said. “If I asked him to be my coach, he’d be my coach outside of it.”
“He’d call me coach (at games or practices); he wouldn’t call me dad,” Jerry added. “It wasn’t like a rule or anything, it was just one of those things.”
Jerry, who is a math teacher at BAHS, has been coaching in the school district since the early 1990s, and said he has no plans to step away now that Donny’s graduated.
“I didn’t start coaching because of Donny,” he said. “I thoroughly loved the experience of having him on my team. I know a lot of dads have a tough time when they coach their kid because sometimes they are harder on their kid.”
But Donny never felt that way.
“He never treated me differently than he did another player,” Donny said. “I never thought of it as an advantage or disadvantage; he was never too hard or too easy on me.”
Jerry and his wife Tammy have two daughters — Marissa and Bri — who have each excelled in their own endeavors outside of sports.
He said that Marissa, who is the music and band director at Bradford High, and Bri, who was a successful dancer, didn’t need too much coaching from their father over the years.
“All of my kids found something they were passionate about. To brag, I think they’ve all been great at it,” Jerry said.
“One of the common threads in life is to find out what you’re passionate about, and then be great at it. Then you’re happy, and that’s what it’s about.”
In the fall, Donny will be continuing his athletic career by playing football at Division-III Thiel College in Greenville.
And not surprisingly, Donny plans on following in his dad’s footsteps in both the classroom and on the sidelines.
“Donny is going on to play college ball, but then he wants to be a math teacher and a coach,” Jerry said. “He sees how happy I am everyday. I enjoy teaching and I enjoy coaching. He said, ‘Wow, I think that’s where I’m headed.’”
The pair thought they’d been on the same football field for the final time together after losing in the state playoffs in November, but they’ll get one final game together as the duo will be participating in the annual Big 30 Charities Classic on Aug. 3 at Parkway Field.
It’ll be one last father-son coaching experiences, with a bit of a different perspective this time around.
“I’m not coaching Donny in the game and I do get to watch him because he’s playing offense and I’m coaching strictly on the defensive side,” Jerry said. “When we are on offense, I get to just watch him play.”
As he’s been throughout his playing career at Bradford High, Donny will certainly be one of the leaders in that Pennsylvania locker room — mainly using the experiences and lessons he’s learned from his dad over the years.
“I definitely picked up a lot of his sayings. (My teammates) are like, ‘Oh that’s pretty good, where did you get that from?’” Donny said with a laugh.
For Jerry, he is pleased that, aside from the wins and losses and the touchdowns or baskets scored, he taught his son how to play the game the right way.
“Something I can say about Donny is that he’s always been one of the better players on his teams. But he’s also always been one of, if not the hardest working player on the team. That’s the difference maker right there.”