When Whiteland’s sectional football game against Columbus East fell on Halloween weekend, junior Amelia Edens showed up to the game sporting Warriors attire head to toe — a baseball cap and black rain gear.

Her costume for the night? Athletic director.

She’s plenty familiar with the look. Dave Edens was the athletic director at Clark-Pleasant Middle School while Amelia was a student-athlete there; he took over at the high school in the summer of 2020, as Amelia was set to begin her sophomore year.

Competing in high school sports within an athletic department run by your father can have its pros and cons, but it’s been far more good than bad for the Johnson County families in that position.

Franklin AD Bill Doty has two current Grizzly Cub athletes under his roof — senior baseball player Drew and freshman volleyball and basketball player Maggie. At Greenwood, sophomore track and field standout Ellie Irwin is the daughter of Woodmen AD Rob Irwin.

As with children who are coached by their parents, there will always be at least some people grumbling about nepotism and such with the athletic directors’ kids — “you only made the team because of your dad” — but those instances have been few and far between.

“I think in middle school it was probably worse than now,” Amelia Edens said, “because that was when kids would be like, ‘Oh, you’re just good at swimming because your dad’s the athletic director.’ It’s not really as bad now.”

It helps that the local athletes in these cases are pretty darn good. Drew Doty came into the week batting over .300 and leading the Grizzly Cubs’ baseball team in doubles and RBIs; Amelia Edens is Whiteland’s top swimmer and a valuable contributor on the track and field team, and Ellie Irwin was recently crowned the Johnson County and Mid-State Conference champion in the high jump.

Especially in the cases of Edens and Irwin, talk of favoritism is silly; the stopwatch and the tape measure don’t lie. Still, the fathers are always mindful of perception when they’re on the job.

“I’ve found that’s probably something that I’ve noticed myself doing,” Bill Doty said. “If, say, the baseball team, coach (Ryan) Feyerabend ordered new uniforms, it hit me for a split second — ‘Man, what’s this going to look like? Does it show that I’m playing favorites for the baseball team?’ I think people know that that’s not true. I try to watch and attend as many events as I can, and I think everybody would feel supported … but it is in the back of my mind.”

Of course, there are little perks that the ADs’ kids do have working in their favor. There’s free admission to other sporting events, or the opportunity to snatch up an extra snack or drink here and there from an athletic office or hospitality room.

And, as anyone who is or was the child of a teacher knows, it’s always beneficial to have the safety net of a parent in the building when lunch money or some other school necessity has been forgotten.

“I forget stuff in my car all the time, and then I’ll be like, ‘Hey, can I run out and get this?’” Drew Doty said. “It’s a lot easier than having to call home or call somebody that’s not in the school. … So there’s definitely some pluses.”

Sometimes it’s as simple as just having a supportive shoulder nearby to lean on — something both Ellie Irwin and Maggie Doty cited as a major asset, especially when they first arrived at the high school as freshmen.

“I wasn’t nervous so much, because coming in as a freshman, it kind of took away those nerves because I have someone here that I know,” Maggie said. “And since he knows a lot of people, I think a lot of people knew me, because I grew up around sports and a lot of teachers.”

“It was nice to have my dad there, someone to comfort me,” Ellie agreed. “I always know that if I ever need anything, I can go back in there.”

The biggest negative cited, especially by the parents, is the fact that being an athletic director tasked with taking care of every one of the school’s teams often means missing out on your own kids’ events.

Dave Edens couldn’t go watch Amelia compete at the county track meet because Whiteland was hosting both baseball and softball games that day against Franklin.

“That’s by far the worst part of it, and probably the worst part for them,” he said. “I probably miss more than most parents would miss of their kids’ events, ironically, being the athletic director — and I can’t schedule it to our favor, because that would be egregious.”

Though he hasn’t missed any of Ellie’s track meets this spring, Rob Irwin says he ends up not being able to attend many of her offseason club meets due to his obligations at Greenwood. His family, though, is used to such conflicts by now and understands that he’s going to be there for them as much as he can.

“I missed a ton of her brothers’ stuff,” Rob said. “(Ellie) knows going in that I wish I could be there.”

“As corny as it is, I always know that he’s supporting me, and that he always wants to be there,” Ellie said of her dad. “He has a job, and so do I. It’s just nice to know that he always wants the best for me, whether he’s there or not.”

For Bill Doty, making it to baseball games has taken on an increased significance this year with it being Drew’s senior season. He’s been able to get to every one so far thanks to favorable scheduling and the help of Franklin assistant AD Chris Coll, among others.

“Now that Drew’s a senior is really when it hits you,” Doty said. “In years past, I’ve missed those games, and it really didn’t hurt. They acted like it really didn’t bother them. … But now that Drew’s a senior, the thought of missing one of those last games — and we only have another 10 or so left — it really hits.”

Dave Edens is growing more conscious of that reality with Amelia set to start her senior year this August.

“Next year, I’m going to try to make sure that I’m at everything,” he said. “We saw real quickly with COVID how nothing’s guaranteed whatsoever. I don’t want to miss anything next year — and I’m not going to say I will hit everything, but I’m sure going to try to hit everything.”

Like any parents of teenagers, the county ADs have to find a delicate balance between making sure their kids feel loved and supported and knowing when they need to stay out of the way. So far, by all accounts, they’ve managed to pull it off successfully.

“I never feel hovered or anything,” Ellie Irwin said of her father. “He’s just there when I need him.”