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Basketball: All in the family – Mother and daughter share bond on and off the court

By Reece Waddell | Published Saturday, February 10, 2018
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Family Ties

FAMILY TIES – Rhea Mitschke (left) is Paradise’s assistant coach, while her daughter, Maddie (right), is the team’s starting point guard. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

The lights in the Paradise High School gym were off.

The game was over – and so was the Lady Panthers’ season. After returning from Azle, then-sophomore Maddie Mitschke sprawled out on the hardwood crying, contemplating Paradise’s 48-38 loss in the bi-district round of the playoffs last season.

But she was not alone.

Sitting just a few feet away was her mother, assistant coach Rhea Mitschke, who was also crying. Although Rhea has coached Maddie since she was a young girl, this was the moment that has stuck with Maddie the most over the years.

MITSCHKE’S WORLD – Maddie Mitschke is Paradise’s leading scorer and rebounder, and is averaging a double-double this season. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

“After the Brock game last year – and this is sad – I laid on the floor and started crying and she was on the bench and started crying,” Maddie said. “We just had this little together moment of sadness.”

Rhea was able to recall the moment vividly, too.

“We sat in here in the dark and just kind of thought about everything,” Rhea said.

Rhea comes from a coaching family. She grew up going to games, whether it be football, basketball or track and field meets. Her father was a long-time coach, and as Rhea described it, made a lasting impact on her life.

Known around Paradise for her straightforward approach to coaching, Rhea pulls inspiration from her father when she is on the sideline.

“My dad coached for 35 years, so it was really all I ever knew,” Rhea said. “I wanted to have the effect that my dad had on kids. Something he believed in, which I think is a great way [to coach], is prepare kids for the real game.

“One day [Maddie] just looked at me and said, ‘Can you just be mom?’ And I was like ‘This is me! This is mom!’ It doesn’t matter if it’s Kaycee Martin or if it’s Maddie. I didn’t start coaching because of Maddie. It’s a bonus that she loves this.”

Except the coaching doesn’t stop when Rhea and Maddie leave the gym.

“It’s interesting because she’s coaching on the court and we’re coaching at the house and coaching in the car,” Maddie said. “But that’s just how my mom is. Even when she’s coaching she applies life to everything.”

The word head coach Chad Woodard repeatedly used to describe Rhea’s coaching style was accountability.

In her effort to prepare her players for the real world, Rhea strives to not only treat every player the same – but hold them accountable for their actions. While basketball is what she is coaching, Rhea constantly weaves life lessons throughout practices and games.

When Woodard took the Paradise girls head coaching job two years ago, he knew Rhea had to be his assistant.

“I love the passion she brings to the game of basketball,” Woodard said. “The girls respect her. And I knew with that she would be a great assistant.

“You’re not going to get sugarcoated when you go get your job or when you go to college. Professionals aren’t going to sugarcoat anything. That’s one thing I like about her. She’s going to shoot you straight. To me, that’s big. Accountability is huge. We’re hoping to help these kids when the real world punches them in the mouth.”

It doesn’t matter what player she is coaching at any given moment, Rhea critiques them all the same – even her own daughter.

In Tuesday’s regular season finale against Jacksboro, Maddie got in foul trouble early in the third quarter. She picked up her fourth foul trying to contest a shot, and as a result, was forced to sit down.

As she jogged over to the bench, Rhea was one of the first people to greet her, barking out instructions and words of encouragement.

“First of all, she loves her daughter to death, as all mothers do,” said Woodard of Rhea and Maddie’s relationship. “But being a coach’s kid is tough. She knows what Maddie has and she knows the time she’s put in. I have not had to pull her off of her yet. And there’s times when she gets after Maddie more than anybody else.”

Paradise’s leading scorer and point guard, Maddie has emerged as an integral part of the team in her junior year. She is averaging a double-double, pouring in 12.9 points and 10.1 rebounds per game. Along with being the Lady Panthers’ spark plug at both ends of the court, Maddie is also the team’s leading rebounder despite not even being one of the tallest players on the team.

Earlier in the season, Maddie earned all-tournament honors at the Burkburnett Tournament, leading Paradise to a third-place finish. She’s also come close to recording several triple-doubles this year, dishing out an average of 4.2 assists per game.

Maddie fearlessly crashes the boards, but conceded her aggressive play can get the better of her.

“Sometimes it’s a bad thing, but I play with all my heart,” Maddie said. “Basketball is a very important thing in my life. Sometimes it gets me in trouble, but it’s what keeps me going throughout the game.”

It’s been nearly one year since Maddie and Rhea shared their emotional moment alone inside the Paradise gym. Through all the practices and offseason workouts, the mother-daughter tandem has worked tirelessly to get back to the postseason.

On Monday, the Lady Panthers will get another crack at Brock in the bi-district round of the playoffs.

While winning and perhaps exacting some revenge are the objectives, Maddie and Rhea know no matter the outcome, nothing can take away from the bond they share both on and off the court.

“[My mom coaching me] is going to be one of the best things I remember about my high school experience,” Maddie said.

Rhea could not agree more.

“I’ve always enjoyed coaching, but really getting to spend this time with Maddie it makes it special that we get to do it together,” Rhea said.

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