By Josh Brown
PLEASANT HILL — When her husband Greg and two of her three sons, Nathan and Jordan, became coaches for the Newton High School varsity baseball team, Debbie Kopp was thrilled.
It made what she and Greg had been doing for the past 30 years that much easier — attending all of their four children’s sporting events.
“It’s been very helpful,” Debbie Kopp said with a laugh. I keep telling the kids they’re not allowed to move.”
Sports have been synonymous with the word family for the Kopps from the beginning, and Debbie and Greg have made it a priority to ensure that they’re always there for their kids at every event. Unlike with most families, though, Debbie’s duties didn’t end with high school sports, as all three of her sons and their father became coaches for Miami County high school teams — and she’s been there to support them every step of the way.
“I just think it’s important that your kids know you’re showing support,” she said. “Not only that, but it’s fun, too, and we’ve met a lot of new friends through the different sports. But I always said when my kids were little that, if they ever got hurt, I’d be the one riding in the ambulance with them.
“I remember going to a Senior Night game one of my sons was coaching, and one of the moms there had never been to a game before. She stayed for the Senior Night ceremony, then she left. It made me sad. It was just really hard for me to understand.”
“They started going to our sporting events back in 1986 for Nathan,” said Brett Kopp. “By the time our sister Kylie (the youngest of their four children) finished, Nathan and I were already coaching. Yet very rarely do they miss a game.”
“For me, I was the first grandson on both sides of the family,” Nathan said. “So when I started sports at eight, nine years old, I had as many people in my circle at my games than everyone else combined. I didn’t know any different. When your mom and dad raise four kids that are all into sports, it’s just what you do.”
It began when Debbie married Greg Kopp and kept going when their first son, Nathan, began sports in the mid-80s. Nathan went on to play football, basketball and baseball in high school, then their second son Brett played football, basketball and baseball as well. Youngest son Jordan, did as well, focusing on baseball later in his career after an injury and daughter Kylie ran track, played basketball and participated in cheerleading — even playing soccer during her senior year at the same time as cheerleading. All four children were state-caliber athletes at Bethel High School.
“Sports have always been important to us,” Debbie said. “Greg’s family was all into sports, and mine was, too. I was into gymnastics and ran track — nothing like Kylie did, though — and was a cheerleader. We even typically schedule our holiday dinners around whatever sport it on TV at the time.”
“Being an athlete, things go up and down,” Jordan said. “Some days you win and have a good game, some days you lose and struggle. There’s a lot of ups and downs in sports — but the one constant was that I knew my mom and dad would be there to support me.”
“Unsung hero, that’s what comes to mind when I think about my mom,” Kylie said. “She’s the glue that keeps our family together. I can’t imagine the amount of time she’s put in just to help us succeed and accomplish our goals. She never missed a single game, track meet, or even just me cheering. It was inevitable that she’d be in the stands with a smile on her face.”
There’s been plenty of challenges throughout the years, too.
“When I played in the minors in New York, they’d take off work and drive nine hours or more to see me play in New York, Staten Island, Pennsylvania, wherever I was playing,” Nathan said.
“It was harder to get to, but we did our best,” Debbie said. “When Nathan played for the Yankees (he pitched in the New York Yankees’ farm system in 2002), we were up there for a lot of those games. Then there was the year Jordan was in the state final baseball game while Kylie was at state track, I think that was her freshman year. And when she ran track at Wright State, it was harder to get to, but we still tried to get to her indoor and outdoor meets.”
Since then, all three sons have gone on to be head varsity coaches in Miami County. Nathan is currently the Troy High School girls basketball coach and Newton head varsity baseball coach, Jordan was the head baseball coach at Milton-Union and is currently an assistant at Newton along with father Greg, and Brett just completed his first year as Bethel’s head boys basketball coach.
And their mom is still there for them.
“You don’t see that very often,” Debbie said of them all coaching in the same area. “It’s impressive to watch my kids coaching other kids, teaching them the games. They love kids, and they love coaching, as well. I just enjoy watching the kids they’re coaching.”
Nathan, Jordan and Greg all coaching at Newton baseball has simply made it easier on them.
“You don’t see that very often either,” Debbie said with a laugh. “It’s funny, too. Brett says everyone asks him how the baseball team is doing, and he just laughs and says I don’t know, I don’t coach them.”
“Whether I’m playing or coaching, it’s always nice to see a friendly face there supporting you,” Brett said. “After a game, you couldn’t tell if you won or lost the game by looking at mom. She’s just always there telling you that you did well and she’s proud of you.”
“You take it for granted sometimes since they’ve always been there, but now that I’m 36 years old and coaching, if I don’t see them at a game, I’ll call them and see what happened,” Nathan said. “Some families have music or band or whatever else they’re into. Our family has always had sports.”
“Without her, we wouldn’t be where we are in life,” Kylie said. “If I can be half the woman my mom is, I’m doing just fine.”
But it isn’t over for Debbie and Greg yet. Not with their grandchildren — Brett’s son Anderson, Nathan’s daughter Alex and Jordan’s daughter Lucy — starting to come of age.
“Brett signed Anderson up for soccer,” Debbie said. “It looks like we’re going to start it all over again.”
Because a mother’s work is never truly done.
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.