BY DANIEL LOCKE
FOR THE OBSERVER
The bond between a father and his son is one of the closest relationships many people will ever have. A father coaching his son in sports creates some of the best memories within those relationships. Opelika High School head football coach Erik Speakman and his son Bryce have gotten to enjoy making those memories at the high school level. With Bryce signing to play baseball at Gadsden State, it is safe to say that Speakman is one proud dad.
Seeing his players advance to the next level is nothing new to Speakman. The Bulldogs had five players sign to play football at the collegiate level on National Signing Day this year.
“It means a lot to you as a coach watching these kids grow up and realizing their goal,” Speakman said. “A lot of these kids have a goal of playing athletics in college and work really hard over four, five or six years trying to achieve that goal. So, it means a lot to see these kids achieve it.”
Getting the opportunity to play for your dad in high school is a rare thing, and Bryce does not take it for granted.
“It’s everything really,” Bryce said. “As a kid, you always love playing for your father but then to do it at the high school level was something that was really special. A lot of high school coaches don’t get to see their family much during the season, so I’m glad that I got to spend time with him every day.”
This opportunity was not taken lightly by Speakman either.
“It’s a lot of fun, you know, you’re together a lot,” Speakman said on coaching his son at the high school level. “He was a ball boy and a water boy for us coming up so there’s been a lot of years of being on the sideline together.”
Bryce was able to learn a lot from his dad about navigating the recruiting process to ensure that he ended up at the right college for him.
“No matter what, don’t get too high or low,” Bryce said on the advice his dad gave him about the recruiting process. “Just keep working hard, because if you’re arrogant and cocky it will come back to bite you.”
Speakman was confident in his son’s ability to figure out the process of recruiting and find the best fit for him.
“He did a lot of it on his own,” Speakman said. “Nowadays every kid is using twitter to try to get recruited. In fact, we do that with our football players and send in film to coaches.”
Guiding athletes through the process of getting to the next level is nothing new to Speakman, and he has plenty of useful tips.
“The biggest thing is pick somewhere where you fit and where you can go play,” Speakman said on the advice he gives to his athletes during the recruiting process. “We always use the term around here ‘do you want to play, or do you want to be on the team?’ Because there is a difference.”
Bryce took this advice to heart when choosing where he would continue his academic and baseball career.
“I was looking for somewhere that I could play immediately or have the potential to play immediately,” he said. “I really like coach Lewis and what he had to offer.”
Bryce is ready to make the transition from the Bulldogs outfield to that of the Cardinals. His father’s expertise and leadership has helped many different athletes out of Opelika High School achieve their dreams of playing their sport in college. This time, however, it is even more special for the veteran coach.