By Cait Kemp
Dion Byrd Jr. looks over at the bench, frustrated after an unsuccessful play that his team attempted to run against the fast-paced Springfield International Charter’s defense. His coach yells something quick back to him, and he shakes it off and gets his head back into the game.
After the game, rather than the two going their separate ways and chatting about the tough play at practice later in the week, they will be going back home to air out the tensions, together.
Dion Byrd Jr.’s head coach is Dion Byrd Sr.
Byrd Sr. and Byrd Jr. are a classic father-son coach and player duo. Byrd Jr., a senior at Baystate Academy in Springfield, Mass, has grown up being coached by his father on the court. Ever since youth leagues, Byrd Sr. has been along for his son’s journey in the game of basketball, and together they will finish their stint at Baystate after Byrd Jr. graduates and Byrd Sr. steps down as coach.
“I started coaching Dion when he was in, what, bitty basketball. Obviously being father and son we’ve had our challenges, basketball-wise, but he’s always been a good kid,” said Byrd Sr.
Although bittersweet to be parting ways on the court, both the father and son are excited for a new chapter of basketball within their relationship.
“I am actually looking forward to being just his father, and going out to wherever he plays in college if he decides to play, just go be dad,” said Byrd Sr. “I think it will be great for us, our bond is strong, I’m with Dion everyday…I think once this is over, I think we will get even closer. Now I can just be Dad.”
After graduating, Byrd Jr. is looking to play at the collegiate level. It will be the first time he hasn’t played for his dad, and he will have to find a new meaning of basketball in his life. He is excited for a change, though, and to discover his new identity playing the sport that he loves.
“Sometimes it’s hard for him to be my coach…sometimes bad practices, bad games, I hate waking up and looking at him. No one wants to talk to their coach after that bad game,” said Byrd Jr.
At difficult times, like after tough losses or hard practices, it could be hard to put their strong opinions aside. Yet the bond that they were able to build over the course of Byrd Jr.’s basketball career has been priceless. They both have been able to grow a unique appreciation for the game as well as a perspective on a coach and player dynamic.
“Growing up, it was just figuring out when he was being a coach and when he was being a father… I understand when [to and when] not to talk,” said Byrd Jr. This helped him to avoid arguments with his father, and work towards positive moments during the season.
After a tough loss at the 2022 Spalding HoopHall Classic presented by Eastbay against Springfield International Charter School, the tension was most definitely present.
Byrd Sr. said, “Tonight, we won’t even talk about this game at home, we let it go, so we get to move on.”
Despite the difficult moments, the pair remain focused and work towards the ultimate goal this season- a state championship.
Back in 2020, the Baystate Bulls came just shy of making the state championship game, and lost much of their season due to Covid-19 last year. Vying for that top achievement is the end goal, and they are on track to have a successful season.
Coming off two big wins against Easthampton and Hoosac Valley at the end of December, they rolled into a solid 3-1 record to start the season. Due to Covid-19 outbreaks and cancellations, they suffered a halt in their schedule for a couple of weeks, and Hoop Hall was their first appearance back after the hiatus.
Dion Jr. scored a season-high of 22 in their first loss of the season against Wahconah. His ability to control the ball, create opportunities and see the floor has allowed him to be a threat on the court.
With his dad by his side, they are able to motivate each other to be better each day, on the court and at home. In their closing season, eyes will be on the Byrd duo to see what they can do. Regardless of disagreements that may sprout in tense situations, they do have one thing in common- the drive to win.
Photos: Joe Arruda/The Student