For the Trifones, football is a family affair
Updated 1:46 pm, Wednesday, October 28, 2015
DARIEN — There is no doubt Rob Trifone is a great football coach — his 199 career wins between Brien McMahon and Darien, as well as several championships, speak for themselves.
But when it’s his own sons on the field even a coach with 37 years of experience has to learn to adapt and toe the line between coach and father.
Trifone’s twin sons, Bobby and Christian, are both in their senior season at Darien — both are captains and both are enjoying fine starts to the season, as are the Blue Wave as a whole, who are off to a 4-0 start.
Bobby, a lockdown corner has two interceptions and three pass breakups on a defense that is allowing just over 14 points a game. Christian plays safety behind Bobby as well as running back, and has six rushing touchdowns thus far.
“So far they’ve lived up to their billing,” Coach Trifone said of his sons’ performance on the field. “They’ve always worked very hard at this game and obviously having me as their dad has forced their hand to go to camps and clinics and 7-on-7 tournaments, but I don’t think they’ve done all of that because of me, I think they’ve done it because they love the game.”
The love of the game is something the Trifone brothers have had instilled at them from a young age. Bobby joked that growing up people would ask if football was their favorite sport and he and his brother would monotonously answer “yes.” As time went on the answer however, yes no longer became a reflex to a question asked countless times, but an actual belief.
But with that passion for the sport the brothers knew they would have to work that much harder to prove they belong on the playing field — that they were there because of their ability and not the name on the back of their jerseys.
“We were always really worried that people would immediately assume that we’re getting playing time because of him.” Bobby said. “So we were always told we would have to be better than everybody because it needs to be obvious that we should be the starters, and yeah it’s a struggle but at the same time it’s really unique having him as our coach.”
Anytime the twins have have an issue or question that needs answering, they have the luxuary starting at 6 AM every day their coach is in the other room watching video. But it’s once again that line Rob is always leary of between coach and father.
“During the game they’re just two other players,” Rob said. “Because that’s how you have to coach — and I mean that. I’m always looking at the Xs and Os and what can I do better. But when I get home and watch the tape then I become the proud father and coach because now I have a chance to absorb it and I’ll say, ‘Hey, that was a great play you really did a nice job,’ or I’ll be very hard on them and say, ‘Look, you can’t play the option this way you have to do this.’ ”
Rob being hard on his sons may have been the central message of the relationship between the three. It isn’t a knock on the coach or the father, simply a way of life when dealing with the “Coach’s Son” mentality on the field and in the community.
Luckily for Coach Trifone, he has someone to reign him in if he becomes too negative when it comes to the mistakes made by his sons, defensive line coach Rich Fatigate.
“What I see him doing is being more critical of his own kids and his own performance and sometimes they’re overlooked as a result of that,” said Fatigate, who also coached his son when he was in high school. “It’s that slippery slope when you’re coaching your own kids that you want to be fair, but sometimes it leans the other way and when I see him do that I have to walk over and tell him he’s being biased in the wrong way. But he’s gotten better over the years.”
Despite the challenges it presents Rob Trifone said he wouldn’t trade his situation for anything. That spending afternoons on the turf at Darien High School with his sons and the rest of the team is more rewarding than any other job he could be doing.
“In short it’s a blessing,” Trifone said. “I feel so blessed that No. 1, I’m able to coach kids at this level and have some success and No. 2, you’re coaching your own boys. How many dads get to do that? So many of these dads are coming home on the train and they might make a few more pennies than I do, but in the end I’ve told the boys sometimes I consider myself the richest man in town.”
Bobby joked how other coachs tease the boys when it comes to their ability to read each other on the defensive side of the ball, something they attribute it to “twin telepathy.” But in reality it’s the amount of reps the two have taken together that allows them to react without communicating.
It all came to fruition in a single play last year that even Hollywood writers would beam at. Up by a score in overtime of the FCIAC championship game against rival New Canaan on Thanksgiving, the Rams were down to their last play, running a slant in the end zone for star receiver Alex LaPolice.
Christian jumped the route and got his hand on the ball, sending it spinning in the air behind him where Bobby caught it, icing the win and the title.
“It was unbelievable,” Christian said of the play. “We’ve always been on that right side together and we knew that play was coming but to tip that and turn around and see him come up with it was the most amazing thing ever.”
At the conclusion of the season there will be no more conscious effort by Trifone to take care with how he treats his sons on the field, there will be no more slip-ups by the boys, calling him dad on the field before quickly adjusting to “Coach T.”
There also won’t be the bond of all three working together for a common goal. And while in some regards that may make Trifone’s job as coach a little easier, it isn’t something he is looking forward to.
“Every day,” Trifone said about how often he thinks about no longer having his sons on the field with him. “And I say that to my wife, I tell her I know that the days are dwindling and I try to come out here every day and enjoy the team, but also enjoy the fact that my sons are with me on the field, and I know next year they’ll be at some school spending all my money so we’ve been taking it all in and trying to relish in the moment.”