NEW PALESTINE — Doug Whitaker didn’t get the message. Had he known the Dragons volleyball game was a special “pink match-up,” to honor breast cancer awareness, he, too, would have been dressed in bright pink, he said.
There isn’t a thing Whitaker and Sandy, his wife, wouldn’t do to show their support for the New Palestine High School teams their children coach.
Daughter, Kelli Whitaker, 29, is the varsity volleyball coach. Her sister, Julie Whitaker, 26, is her assistant and junior varsity volleyball coach, while Wade Whitaker, 23, their brother, is the freshman boys basketball coach.
Story continues below gallery
While their parents have always been staunch supporters of their children as they grew up playing sports for New Palestine schools, they continue to go above and beyond attending every single game the Whitaker children now coach.
When the varsity volleyball team’s bus broke down earlier this season, the first person Kelli saw coming to her squad’s aid was none other than her father.
“We’re so blessed to have them, but they’re always there, so I kind of just expect it,” Kelli said. “We talk about sports at home and they’ve just always supported us.”
The Whitakers love going to Dragons games watching their adult children coach, and they like it just as much as they did when their children were playing for the high school’s teams, they said.
From sitting in the stands cheering their children on to pulling for the student-athletes on their children’s teams, being a part of supporting their children’s lives is something the Whitaker’s have always done.
With three children all clustered in the same age group, just three years apart, the Whitaker’s often found themselves attending one game, then quickly going to another, or splitting their time to support all three.
“It’s always been that way,” Doug said. “When they were in youth leagues, high school and college, we just traveled everywhere to see them play, every game, every weekend, we did everything.”
Doug noted when his parents, who had six boys, couldn’t always make it to everyone’s games, he noticed and vowed he would always do his best to support his children in every way possible, and he and his wife have done that.
For Sandy, who is a study hall monitor at New Palestine High School, she’s always loved watching her children play, she said. Getting a chance to now watch them compete as coaches is also special.
“We’ve been in a gym for I guess over 20 some years now,” Sandy said, with a laugh.
The Whitaker’s, who graduated from Warren Central High School in 1978, decided they wanted to raise their children in a small town and give them opportunities, and that’s what they did by moving to New Palestine, they said.
The parents are thrilled to see all three of their children, who graduated from New Palestine in 2006, 2009 and 2012 come back to their roots to pursue their passions as coaches.
Like Kelli, Julie expects to see her parents at her games, she said. When Julie was coaching volleyball at Doe Creek Middle School the past couple of years, her parents never missed a match watching the Bucks play before quickly getting to wherever the Dragons had a match.
“They support New Pal and they support us as coaches and they still have so much fun with it,” Julie said.
For Wade, whose basketball season will be starting soon, he supports his sisters, too, and likes to attend as many volleyball games as he can when he’s not coaching the Dragons freshman boys team.
He credits his parents for keeping him on top of everyone’s schedule so the family can always be there for each other.
“It’s cool because coaching takes up a lot of our time, but it takes up just as much of their time too, but they are never not here,” Wade said.
When he was a kid growing up his mom and dad always knew where his uniform, his socks, his game shoes and everything was, when he didn’t, he said.
Just like his sisters, Wade always wanted his parents to be at his games for support, but never had to look in the stands during warm-up to see if they were there.
“For one thing, I just always knew they would be there, and two, I could always hear my mom’s laugh,” he said. “I would be warming up, and I’d just hear her laugh and I’d be like, ‘alright, everything is good.’”