GREEN BAY – Pat Mikesch usually starts scrolling through his phone when he steps off the ice for intermission breaks.
The Green Bay Gamblers coach is focused on the game at hand for his team, but he’s also highly interested in checking out scores from some other contests.
Mikesch isn’t looking at the opposition on the USHL scoreboard or keeping tabs on what’s going on with some of his former players in the NHL.
The 43-year-old coach is glancing at his phone to monitor how his favorite players are doing — his three kids.
“Everything is through text,” Mikesch said about the personal scoreboard he receives from his wife, Aimee. “Even during our games, I’ll have a period-by-period update on how things are going.”
Any parent who works nights or weekends knows how difficult it can be to attend their children’s games.
It’s just a bit out of the ordinary when you’re missing those games because your job is to be at a different game.
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Mikesch’s schedule with the Gamblers often aligns with the slate of games for his two oldest children, Austin and Kalli. Austin is a senior on the Bay Port hockey team, while Kalli is a sophomore with the Bay Area Ice Bears co-op girls hockey team.
Seventeen of the 24 games for Bay Port and the Ice Bears were on days the Gamblers were playing this season.
That’s what made last Tuesday so special for the Mikesch family, since Pat was in attendance for Bay Port’s Senior Night when Austin recorded a hat trick in a 5-1 victory over Cedarburg at the Cornerstone Community Center.
“Seeing Austin now as a senior it makes you so proud of how he did adjust and the core group of friends that he has,” said Pat, who joined the Gamblers’ coaching staff in 2011 after coaching at Michigan Tech.
“It really does weigh on you, our decisions as coaches and which direction to go with our profession directly affects family. You tend to worry some when you take a job somewhere else how your kids will adjust. But they’ve done just fine.”
Jason and Jaddan Simmons have showcased some stellar moves on the basketball court as point guards at Green Bay Southwest.
Jason, a sophomore, is averaging 13.6 points per game for the boys team, while Jaddan, a freshman, is leading the girls team with 15.5 ppg.
Since their games often fall on the same night, their parents also have to stay on the move to keep up with them.
“We made a vow that I do all the home games and he does all the away games unless they are not playing on the same night,” said Tiffany Simmons, the players’ mom.
That proposition was a little bit tougher to keep during the first part of the basketball season when Simmons’ husband had some late meetings or had to travel for work.
His work just happens to be with the city’s most recognizable employer.
Jason Simmons Sr. just completed his sixth season on the Green Bay Packers’ coaching staff, finishing his second year as the team’s assistant special teams coach.
The former defensive back played 10 years in the NFL with the Pittsburgh Steelers and Houston Texans before transitioning to coaching with the Packers in 2011.
Technically, his coaching tenure began when he coached his son’s youth team in Houston.
“We’ve definitely adjusted to being up here,” Jason Jr. said about getting used to Green Bay’s colder climate and making new friends.
The Simmons’ oldest child, Taelyr, graduated high school last year.
Given the changing nature of personnel in the NFL, Tiffany is hoping her other two children will be able to finish out high school in Green Bay as well.
“We handle it as it comes,” Tiffany said about the prospect of her husband getting a coaching promotion with another team in the future. “But right now with the kids being in high school, Jaddan is having a really good experience here and so is little Jason. I hope that we can continue this process here for at least the next three years until they’ve graduated.”
Finding a fit
St. Norbert College men’s basketball coach Gary Grzesk enjoys it when he can attend the NCAA Division I Final Four.
It’s an opportunity for Grzesk to catch up with friends and peers in his profession. It also serves as a reminder about one of the things he likes most about his position with the Green Knights.
“You run into some other coaches, especially at the Division I level in basketball, and they are always on the lookout for the next job or the next opportunity,” Grzesk said. “So, to have that stability at St. Norbert where I’m at is very refreshing and great for the family.”
The former UW-Green Bay standout has two children that play multiple sports, including basketball. His son, Garrett, is in eighth grade, while his daughter, Gracie, is in fifth grade.
Grzesk’s wife, Liz, who also played NCAA Division I basketball, is coaching Gracie’s youth team.
Meanwhile, Grzesk is happy just being a spectator and leaving his coaching hat at the office when he gets the opportunity to watch his kids play.
“I try to stay out of it from evaluating them from a basketball point of view,” Grzesk said. “But once in a while if they ask I’ll certainly tell them what they did well and what they can improve on.”
Making their way
Austin Mikesch is a talented hockey player.
The Bay Port senior tallied a team-leading 23 goals and 19 assists this season on the way to surpassing 100 career points and being named Fox River Classic Conference player of the year for his efforts.
It’s an honor that symbolizes all the hard work the 6-foot-2 forward has put in over the years in trying to make a name for himself in the sport while knowing his father, Pat, already has a recognizable one.
“Growing up it was always a little bit different or weird because I was always known for being the coach’s kid,” Austin Mikesch said. “I didn’t want other kids to think I was on a team or receiving playing time because of my dad. I just want to prove to other people that I work hard for my ice time and all of the accomplishments I achieve.”
Austin has excelled at the rink and on the links, helping the Bay Port boys golf team advance to the WIAA state tournament the past two years.
“I’ll beat him by a couple strokes every time we go out,” Mikesch said about when he plays his father. “It’s fun and it’s very competitive between us.
“I feel like it’s a release for both of us because we’re so into it during the hockey season, like that’s all we’re doing. Once that’s over we get into golf and we get to relax a little bit more and have a little bit more fun. It’s something we definitely bond over.”
Pat Mikesch’s youngest child, Eliott, is in sixth grade. Eliott’s youth hockey games usually are more favorable to Mikesch’s schedule with the Gamblers, so he has more opportunities to watch him play.
Knowing he isn’t able to get to a lot of Austin or Kalli’s games, Mikesch hosts open skates before the high school season for Bay Port and the Ice Bears.
For all the time he’s spends on the ice, those are the moments he cherishes most in his coaching career.
“You have to take advantage of the time you have,” Pat Mikesch said. “Our season is so crazy long and you’re going to be gone and the days are long. But you have to try and find those times and take advantage of it.”
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