NEWINGTON - As Newington girls soccer head coach Adam Wilkinson made his way to the pitch to prepare for the Indians’ regular season finale against Wethersfield on Monday, his phone buzzed with a text message from his daughter Cameryn Wilkinson.
“On my way,” the text read from Cameryn as she sat aboard the Eagles’ team bus, heading for the Newington soccer field where she and Wethersfield would take on her father and the Indians.
Moments later, another text arrived, completing the sentence and a bit of trash talk before both would get down to business.
“To kick your butt.”
Cameryn, a sophomore starter for the Eagles, had already faced her father’s team earlier in the year, but the dynamic can still be a bit awkward for both of them once the game begins. The playful talk turns into moments where coach/father and daughter/player can mold together.
Even on Monday, as Adam watched Cameryn along the near sideline, he couldn’t help but offer a pointer to his daughter, despite the Indians holding a narrow lead.
“There was one time out here where she was out wide and I said ‘Hey Cam, cut in behind,’” Adam said after Newington’s 2-0 win. “It was almost like an instinctive thing to do. I know it’s the opposition, but she’s my daughter. You’re still going to do things like that.”
Cameryn’s starting position had her along the sideline and right next to Newington’s bench for most of the time she was on the field, and even though the heat of competition can take over and drown out distractions, she still at times would become very aware that her own father was pacing the sidelines right next to her, instructing his team on how to beat her squad in between quick remarks of assistance towards herself.
“When I was over here I was like ‘Oh God, he’s looking at me!’” Cameryn laughed. “He’s definitely in the back of my head.”
The father/daughter dynamic provided temporary reprieves from the heat of battle during Monday’s physical contest, and leading into the match, the prospect of going up against each other was the source of plenty of humor from those on the outside looking in.
Wethersfield head coach Tony Leone, the coach at Newington before Wilkinson, rarely misses a chance to tease his sophomore about an upcoming game against her father, who he has known since before Cameryn was born.
“I’ll say ‘Oh, I better not say this because Cam might tell her dad,’” Leone said about the mood at practice heading into Monday’s game. “But I do that in a sarcastic manner. I kid around with it. It makes for a fun story more than anything.”
Joking might be frequent, but both are seeking a win over each other. Even family ties can’t break the desire to come out on top, but that desire can come with stipulations.
“I always say the ideal thing for me is to win 5-2 and Cam scores their two goals,” Adam said. “That would be the ideal situation. I want to win the games, but I want her to do well.”
There are usually laughs and playful texts before the game starts, but one of the Wilkinsons has to lose, unless the game ends in a draw (they split the two games this season). In those moments, whether it be after a thrilling victory or disappointing defeat, Adam makes sure he’s there for Cameryn, who approached him after Monday’s game, visibly upset about the outcome.
Adam, with his arm around his daughter, looked out onto the empty field with her after the game and walked her through her performance, flipping on his dad switch.
“I don’t like seeing her upset,” Adam said. “I want her to enjoy her high school experience.”
Then, with a pause and a slight smile, Adam’s competitive spirit kicked back in, and dad mode was deactivated for his next comment.
“Just two times a year I want her not to enjoy it.”
Ryan Chichester can be reached at (860) 801-5094 or email@example.com