May 6, 2014

Jim Berkman's Fatherly Safari

by Jac Coyne | | Coyne Archive | Twitter

Salisbury head coach Jim Berkman (right) had seen his son, Kylor (middle), just once in his three years as head coach at Aurora. Last Wednesday, the father made it a second time, driving 28 hours round trip with his brother-in-law, Scott Schilling (left), to see the Spartans win their Midwest Lacrosse Conference semifinal game.

Aurora head coach Kylor Berkman had been home for just a couple of minutes, and was about to dig in for some film study the evening prior to the Spartans' Midwest Lacrosse Conference semifinal final game against Augustana last Tuesday, when the doorbell rang.

"I'm not expecting anyone," Berkman said to his wife.

"I walk over and look out the window and I'm like, 'Who's that bald man standing out there?' Lo and behold, it's my father and uncle making a 14-and-a-half hour trek out to see us play," Berkman said.

Jim Berkman, the Salisbury coach, knew that he had a rare opportunity to see his son coach at the Illinois school with the weeklong gap between the semifinals and finals of the CAC tournament. Since the Sea Gulls don't practice on Wednesdays when they don't have a game, he had a brief window to make it work. Initially, the plan was to catch a flight to Chicago and back, but with no tickets available for less than $800, the itinerary changed.

Berkman grabbed his wife's brother, Scott Schilling, gassed up the car, and hit the road for the 840-mile journey.

"My brother-in-law, Kylor's uncle, is a huge fan of his," Jim said. "We were basically in a car for 28 hours to watch a lacrosse game between two practices."

Kylor wasn't necessarily surprised to see Schilling. "He made the trek out to our OWU playoff game last year," Berkman said of his uncle. "He's got all the AU garb. I think he's a bigger Spartan fan than Sea Gull fan." But seeing his father definitely caught him off guard.

"I had no idea he was coming," Kylor said.

"This is his third season as a head coach and that was only the second time I've seen him coach because they are always playing when we're playing," Jim said.

The father stood behind the fence surrounding Aurora's field and watched his son's team take down Augustana, 15-6. After the game, the son asked the father to speak with his players.

"I thought it was neat for them," Kylor said. "They know where I come from and his history. They are familiar with him. It was a good opportunity to have a pretty educated and historic coach talk to our guys. He came out and talked about sharpening the ax and getting our guys ready for the NCAA playoffs."

The elder Berkman definitely enjoyed his stay.

"They are an up-and-coming program and they do a lot of good things," Jim said. "They have a lot of kids and they are four years into it now. They are getting better. It was just fun to watch him coach."

As it turned out, the trip may have been a little bit of advanced scouting for Jim Berkman. The way the brackets are set up, Aurora and Salisbury could potentially meet in the quarterfinals next Wednesday. That would mean the Sea Gulls beating the winner of York-Susquehanna first round game and the Spartans taking down both Adrian and mostly likely Denison. It's a near certainty for Salisbury and a long shot for Aurora.

"If they have to play Denison they are going to have their hands full, but nobody thought they'd beat Ohio Wesleyan last year," Jim said. "He's a good coach. He knows his stuff."

If they do meet again, it will be Kylor making the trip. But at least he gets to fly.

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