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McCoy brothers share love for teaching, coaching professions in Howard County

(L-R) Kevin, Alex and Wes McCoy are brothers who are each head coaches at three high schools in Howard County. Wes coaches baseball at River Hill; Kevin coaches cross country and track at Centennial; and Alex coaches boys lacrosse at Atholton.
(L-R) Kevin, Alex and Wes McCoy are brothers who are each head coaches at three high schools in Howard County. Wes coaches baseball at River Hill; Kevin coaches cross country and track at Centennial; and Alex coaches boys lacrosse at Atholton. (Doug Kapustin / Baltimore Sun Media Group)

Wes McCoy isn’t so sure, but his youngest brother Alex claims their dad, John, has worn the hat they gifted him for Christmas a couple years ago at least once. It was middle brother Kevin’s idea, and on it has three Howard County high school team logos: Mt. Hebron boys lacrosse on the front, River Hill baseball on one side and Centennial cross country on the other.

The idea behind it was that John didn’t have to rummage through his dresser to support his respective son’s school on the sideline. Instead, he could wear the hat to any of the games or meets that his sons were coaching at.

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“He’s worn it at least once. It’s been a little while and it doesn’t [apply] anymore, but he’s definitely worn it at least once,” Alex said, noting that it’s already out of date because he coaches at Atholton now, not Mt. Hebron. “We’ll knock that off the list this year. We’ll buy him another hat. That’ll be funny.”

The hat represents how three brothers that were born and raised in Howard County currently coach three different sports at three different county high schools while teaching different subjects at different schools.

Wes, 34, teaches world history at River Hill, his alma mater, and has been the varsity baseball coach there since 2009. Kevin, 30, is a biology teacher and the varsity cross country and indoor and outdoor track coach at Centennial. Alex, 27, is a health and physical education teacher at Murray Hill Middle School and the varsity boys lacrosse coach for his alma mater Atholton High.

Kevin describes the family as “old school Howard County,” and his parents, John and Mary McCoy, met when they were both lifeguards for Columbia Association. Mary is a longtime elementary school physical education teacher; John still works for CA.

“Yeah, it is interesting that we did three very different things,” said Wes. “I don’t really have a reason for that; we just found something that we enjoyed and played it and continued to coach it afterwards.”

The beginning of the McCoy’s athletics journey dates back to when the three boys grew up swimming at Faulkner Ridge pool in Columbia during the summer and playing various sports for Western Howard County (WHC) and Howard County Youth Program (HCYP). Wes, however, paved the way and set high athletic expectations for his younger brothers.

Severna Park's Greg Drenning tags out River Hill baserunner Wes McCoy in a game in 2001.
Severna Park's Greg Drenning tags out River Hill baserunner Wes McCoy in a game in 2001. (Francis Gardler / Patuxent Publishing)

A three-sport star at River Hill, Wes was a four-year varsity cross country runner for legendary coach Earl Lauer, winning a team state championship and a couple county titles. He was a natural athlete from Day 1, Lauer recalls.

“He had the physical tools to do a number of things, much more so than just running,” Lauer said. “To have somebody that walks in as a ninth grader that’s pretty talented, you’re always looking for kids like that.”

Wes also lettered twice in baseball and three years in basketball, winning a county title in each sport, before graduating in 2003 and playing basketball for a year at Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pa. He says his desire to spend his life around schools and athletics, however, first came while attending the then-new Clarksville school.

“The thing that I guess I remember about River Hill is that there was a competitiveness in the sports — and all athletes across the county are competitive — but I distinctly remember coach Lauer pushing the importance of competing consistently at a high level when it mattered in regional and state championships,” Wes said. “... I think I was really, really lucky to have some great coaching while I was there. It was just wonderful experiences across the board.”

Wes learned from some of the best to ever do it in Howard County. Lauer coached him in cross country, while Brian Van Deusen — best known as the Hawks’ football coach — was his basketball coach. He says it was always his plan to give back to his community in the same way, and in 2009 he became the varsity baseball coach at River Hill and led the Hawks to their only state championship during his first season at the helm.

Kevin also loved sports; he just wasn’t built for it. Nothing came easy like it did for Wes.

Centennial coach Kevin McCoy was the Baltimore Sun All-Metro girls cross country Coach of the Year in 2013.
Centennial coach Kevin McCoy was the Baltimore Sun All-Metro girls cross country Coach of the Year in 2013. (Algerina Perna / Baltimore Sun)

“Wes was like a 6-foot-1 freshman. He was huge; Wes was a big dude. He took all of it and I got nothing,” Kevin said with a laugh. “I always tried to emulate him but I wasn’t ever really good at anything. I just couldn’t compare.”

Watching Wes run as a freshman at the county meet, in addition to having a one-on-one conversation with Lauer, inspired Kevin to run cross country for the Howard County Striders in seventh grade. He found his passion and quit playing baseball.

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“I can generalize that I probably said to him, ‘Look at how well your brother is doing. What are you doing? What do you plan on doing?’ Probably something like along those lines,” Lauer said. “I try to do that certainly with any of the siblings that I have that I know are coming up. ... Once we get families involved, the whole family gets involved.”

Kevin, however, was not a natural athlete like Wes. He developed slowly as a runner and also had the difficult task of being a freshman at River Hill during Wes’ senior year, but he made his way into a top-seven role by his junior season. He also fell in love with the sport.

“Kevin had to work harder at perfecting the skills that he had, which were good running skills,” Lauer said. “But he worked hard at it.”

Kevin also wrestled for a season — Lauer jokes that he coached two undefeated varsity wrestlers at River Hill: his son, Brandon, who went 111-0, and Kevin, who went 1-0 — and ran indoor and outdoor track as well before graduating in 2006. He ran cross country at then-Delaware Valley College in Doylestown, Pa., where he originally focused on studying wildlife conservation and management before Lauer once again altered his path.

Kevin was invited to help at Lauer’s booster camp, where he “basically taught running,” after his freshman year of college. He connected the dots to his future from there.

“I was like, whoa, this is it,” Kevin said. “I always loved science ... and I just enjoyed it. For me it was a tie-in. The science of running was a joy for me and I enjoyed studying it.”

Kevin started teaching at Centennial in 2010 and the next year he became the school’s head coach of the girls’ varsity cross country and indoor track and field teams. He led the cross country team to state titles in 2013 and 2015, while finishing runner-up in 2012. He’s also been the girls’ outdoor track and field coach since 2014.

The technology magnet program that allowed Kevin to go to River Hill was changed before Alex made it to high school in 2005. He had no choice but to attend Atholton.

Atholton coach Alex McCoy motions to his players during a playoff game against Mt Hebron in 2018.
Atholton coach Alex McCoy motions to his players during a playoff game against Mt Hebron in 2018. (Doug Kapustin / Baltimore Sun Media Group)

“I remember in middle school being disappointed that I wouldn’t be able to follow in the footsteps of my brothers because I really looked up to them growing up, but I think it was really helpful for me to have an opportunity to go somewhere else,” Alex said. “I think it really worked out for me. ... It was an exciting opportunity for me to go my own way.”

He started off playing the same sports when he was young — soccer, basketball and baseball — but eventually went off the beaten path athletically, too. He was cut from his travel baseball team in middle school and decided to try a rival sport, one nobody in his family had ever even really considered: lacrosse.

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Alex was a natural from the first time he picked up a stick in seventh grade. Like Wes and Kevin, he was “heavily encouraged” by his parents and brothers to find his own niche and a sport he loved.

Like his brothers, Alex ran cross country for four years and even raced Kevin at the county championships in 2005. “I finished better but his team beat our team and Earl [Lauer] let us have it,” Kevin recalled.

But lacrosse was Alex’s sport.

“Kevin and I would play a lot and the brothers in the family, nothing changed. They were incredibly supportive. They were always there,” Alex said. “My brothers would always come to the games and try their best to provide feedback even though they were maybe not fluent in the game but recognized there were similar skills and concepts there.”

“I think of the three of us, he was the first one to really take his own path,” Wes said. “Kevin and I shared things: we shared cross country, we shared River Hill. But Alex took his own path earlier. That’s just who he is; he’s going to forge his own path and that was maybe the first step, and I think Alex takes pride in the fact that he went to Atholton. It means something to him. That’s just the difference between us; he wanted to do his own thing and he did.”

Alex played three varsity seasons as a defender at Atholton before playing collegiately at McDaniel College, where he played four years and was a captain his senior season.

Mt. Hebron varsity lacrosse coach Mike McCarthy coached Alex’s club team for two years in high school and saw in him all the traits that would make a successful coach. He was anxious to bring him on to his staff as an assistant after Alex finished college.

“I wanted him on my staff because of how he played, how he knew the game and was a really good teammate and good leader,” McCarthy said. “I think he was mature beyond his age. He was 22 coaching 17- and 18-year-old kids but you couldn’t tell.”

Alex spent five years as an assistant at Mt. Hebron, during which he helped the Vikings reach the 3A/2A state championship game in 2016, before he took the head job at Atholton before the start of the 2018 season.

“We each kind of went our own separate ways but we all ended up in the same spot,” Kevin said. “It’s just how it operated. ... It’s super weird. You don’t really think about it. I can’t think of any other family relation like this in the county.”

Sharing the same passion and career with your siblings produces tremendous pride and benefits. Being a successful coach — on the field with results and off it mentoring young people — is not an easy task, and they all agree that having siblings who understand the pressures and difficulties of being through it has countless benefits.

Wes said coaching can feel like being alone on an island without anyone to talk to, and it has unique elements to it. “It’s never just coaching,” he said.

That’s where the McCoys have an advantage. They aren’t alone. John, Mary, Alex and Wes cheer on Kevin and his team each fall at the cross country county championships. Wes can count on his family being there for a big playoff game or even a regular game day in April. The brothers talk often and collaborate and share ideas about the intricacies of their respective team and school. The benefits of their situation, Wes said, are endless.

“It’s very beneficial because we coach in very different worlds,” he added. “The running world is very unique, so it’s good, valuable information to talk to Kevin about how he experiences all the things of coaching and handles certain situations. The lacrosse world is different from the baseball world and the schools are different. It’s interesting getting all the different perspectives.

“It’s helped a ton. Having someone you can talk to and not feel like you’re giving up some competitive advantage to them is really valuable. It’s kind of hard to quantify; it’s not like you can say because we talk our program won three more games. It’s more like an intangible thing and we’ve all benefited from that.”

(L-R) Alex, Kevin and Wes McCoy are brothers who are each head coaches at three high schools in Howard County. They stand with their parents, Mary and John McCoy, at their family home in Clarksville. Wes coaches baseball at River Hill; Kevin coaches cross country and track at Centennial; and Alex coaches boys lacrosse at Atholton.
(L-R) Alex, Kevin and Wes McCoy are brothers who are each head coaches at three high schools in Howard County. They stand with their parents, Mary and John McCoy, at their family home in Clarksville. Wes coaches baseball at River Hill; Kevin coaches cross country and track at Centennial; and Alex coaches boys lacrosse at Atholton. (Doug Kapustin / Baltimore Sun Media Group)
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