June 21, 2009
Tavaris Tate knows he wouldn''t be where he is today running track if it weren''t for the support of his father, Russell Tate.
Being close to his father and family was the main reason he chose to sign a track scholarship with Mississippi State.
For Mississippi State basketball player Jarvis Varnado, he also values the opinion of his father, West Point High School boys coach Winston Varnado.
The chance to remain close to his father is one of the reasons Jarvis was open for a return to Mississippi State for his senior season and put a career in the National Basketball Association on hold.
Father''s Day holds a special place in the hearts of the Tates and Varnados.
Tavaris ran for his father in the Amateur Athletic Union and combines a father-son and athlete-coach relationship with him on the track.
Russell was a fitness instructor in the Army and has worked with Tavaris since he was 6-years old.
"He''s a coach on the track, but he still plays daddy regardless," Tavaris said. "He''s hard on me on the track, but it pays off because a lot of people don''t have my best interest at heart.
"My dad has been there since day one and he understands my body and my work ethic. He knows the limitations on how far I can go and what I can and can''t do. He just all-around understands me."
Tavaris has two brothers, Jeremy and Russell Jr., and two sisters, Jaleeva and Mariah.
Russell doesn''t want to show any favoritism, but he acknowledges that he and Tavaris have developed a special bond through track.
"God has allowed us to share time together that I haven''t been able to share with my other kids," Russell said. "We have private moments where we seriously talk and times where I can emphasize facts to him. Sometimes he might get upset about hearing the things he shouldn''t do, but those are the things that I know I have to show strength as a father. That builds our character of love for each other."
Russell says it''s always important to take time to pray together prior to a race.
"That has become a signature for us and we really thank God for that," Russell said.
Tavaris provided his father with another win to be proud of Saturday at the Niki Outdoor Nationals in Greensboro, N.C., by once again edging rival Clayton Parros in the 400-meter dash. Tavaris ran a time of 46.17 seconds, while Parros'' time was 46.34.
Coach Varnado was also given an early Father''s Day gift this week when Jarvis was one of 12 players selected to participate on the World University Games Team. The Games will be held July 2-12 in Belgrade, Serbia.
While playing for Mississippi State, Jarvis was chosen Southeastern Conference Defensive Player of the Year two-straight years and was the SEC Tournament Most Valuable Player this past season.
All of those things make coach Varnado proud, but it''s the attitude Jarvis takes that pleases him the most.
"I try to make him understand that basketball is just a sport to get where you need to go," coach Varnado said. "It got him in college, a good opportunity for a degree and an opportunity to make money in basketball. I try to keep him humble and emphasize that it''s keep God in your life first and basketball second."
Jarvis, who has an older brother, Mario, and a younger brother, Jordan, played for his father at Haywood High School in Brownsville, Tenn.
Coach Varnado said he supports all of his sons in everything they do, but has taken a special interest in Jarvis on and off the court.
"When I was his coach, I was his coach at the gym," coach Varnado said. "I tried to impress that he wasn''t any better than anyone else on the court even though he was my son. After we got through with basketball, I tried not to talk basketball with him unless he wanted to talk basketball. I was his father then. I tried to make an effort to separate the two."
Even though coach Varnado tries not to press the basketball issue with Jarvis, that doesn''t mean he doesn''t care.
The father side of the coach comes out when he checks on Jarvis.
"It''s really just knowing how is everything going with him," coach Varnado said. "I just want to make sure he''s not hurt. If he tells me he''s hurt, I''ll tell him to get in the training room, or do I need to come take you to the doctor or what do we need to do?"
One of the reasons coach Varnado took the job as coach at West Point was to be closer to his son.
Having his father near has been a benefit to Jarvis.
"He''s been there, supportive and gives me his advice," Jarvis said. "I see him almost every day and we have a relationship outside of basketball."
n Mullen to spend day with family: Mississippi State football coach Dan Mullen celebrates his first Father''s Day after the birth of his son, Canon, in February.
After a full day at the Ladies Clinic on Saturday, Mullen''s only plan for today is to rest with his family.
"I haven''t really thought about that yet," Mullen said of his exact plans for Father''s Day. "I think my wife and I are going to take the day off."