When soccer coach Cliff McCrath woke up on Saturday morning, the usually happy man felt little excitement about the game he was going to lead his team in playing later that night.
The legendary coach was apprehensive about having to face his 30-year-old son Steve, the head coach of Barry University who was ranked No. 7 in the nation going into the game vs. SPU.
"I was saddened by the thought of seeing my child with his head down. I had that vision," Cliff said.
Steve felt similar uncertainty about having to face his father for the first time in a game SPU would go on to win 1-0 on an early goal by freshman forward Grant Falco.
"It’s painful to have to face him because somebody has to feel bad. Unfortunately tonight it’s me," Steve said.
Steve played collegiate soccer at SPU and was an assistant coach here from 1995-1997 before accepting the position at Barry starting in the 1998 season. In his first season as their coach, the Buccaneers made it to the playoffs with an 11-6 record after going 8-9-0 in 1997.
"I’m always amazed by him. He inspires the absolute daylights out of me," Cliff said of his son.
Although Cliff had a great influence on Steve, both father and son give credit to Steve’s mother Midge.
"His mother gives him the deepest roots. I came along and mowed the lawn sometimes," Cliff said.
"That’s probably not too far fetched, but [Cliff] can’t be denied credit for who I am," Steve said. "When he did mow the lawn I think he groomed me pretty well."
When Steve was 9 years old, he began traveling with his father’s teams all over the United States and around the world.
It was at this point in their lives that Cliff formed a bond with his son that has lasted until this day.
"To this point we’ve been like the greatest buddies in the world," Cliff said.
Steve has one sister, Stacey, and no brothers, so Cliff’s players became his surrogate brothers.
" I never had a big brother. The soccer teams always became my big brothers," Steve said.
Though it seems as if it would be difficult at times to be a child of a college coach who travels a lot, to Steve it was just the way things were.
"It was natural for me to have my dad gone a lot," he said.
When they were together, they spent a good amount of time with each other.
"My childhood memory is that he was such a jerk and beat me up in the driveway when we were playing basketball. It was fun for me and he never hurt me, we were just rough with each other. He was always up for a game," Steve said.
Cliff enjoyed watching his son grow up without many of the obstacles he faced in his own life.
"It was like watching a rerun of my own life without all the hazards and near-death experiences. I found myself thinking how neat it would have been to have that kind of freedom," Cliff said.
When it came time for Steve to choose what college to play soccer at, the decision was tough for Steve and his father. Steve was being recruited by many schools including SPU. Cliff remembers not wanting to pressure his son into going to SPU even though he says he secretly hoped he would.
"We went out for a bite to eat and I told him it was ok with me if he wanted to go to these places," Cliff said.
Steve chose SPU and he played there for four years before continuing on as an assistant coach.
He was an assistant coach for three years when he received an opportunity to to take the head coaching spot at Barry University in Miami Shores, Fla. After personal reflection, and intense prayer in his Bible study, Steve chose to take the offer, and moved on to Barry.
His assistant coaches a Barry are Sergio Soriano and Troy Edwards.
Sergio is was the goalie for SPU from 1979-1982 and was named as the SPU athlete of the quarter century. He has become like part of the family to the McCraths.
"Sergio is like a son, a brother, or whatever," Cliff said.
It was comforting for Steve to have Sergio as an assistant. He helped Steve adjust to his new team and has been a key part of their success.
"He[Sergio] has completely taken me under his wing, because my dad did for him," Steve said.
Edwards is known by SPU soccer fans for a different reason. He scored the game winning goal against the Falcons in the 1984 playoffs.
In his first year at Barry, Steve was received Coach of the Year honors in the Sunshine State Conference. The Bucs made the playoffs for the first time in 13 years.
"He’s an outstanding coach and a dynamic Christian," Cliff said. "I think he’s a better coach than I am."
"That’s pretty humbling," Steve said. "He would know better, but I would have to say that’s pretty heavy praise.
Steve’s return was tough for both him and his father, because neither wanted to see the other feel bad. Steve is thankful for the way he was treated by the SPU community even though his team was playing against the Falcons.
"I would like to thank everybody; fans and the like. The way I was treated was exemplary," Steve said.
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Title: A Father’s Friendship | Author: Chris Cronin | Section: Sports | Published Date: 1999-10-27 | Internal ID: 841