Family Ties: A strong relationship bound by sports


Kent State freshman soccer player Abbie Lawson stands with her father Kent State track and field coach Bill Lawson. “It’s always the one-upsmanship or who did what better or always making comparisons” Bill said. “She absolutely hates to lose at anything, but I guess that’s me looking in the mirror.” Photo by Leah Klafczynski.

Riche Mulhall

When Kent State freshman soccer player Abbie Lawson gets set to take the field, she knows she can always look to the stands to find her No. 1 fan: her father, Bill Lawson.

Bill, who has been Kent State’s track and field head coach since 2005, has coached student-athletes on the high school and collegiate levels throughout his life at the University of Northern Iowa, the University of Oregon and now at Kent State. Bill has watched numerous talents come and go, but despite the vast number of college athletes Bill has coached, his daughter Abbie is one student-athlete who has been the apple of his eye.

Abbie followed in her father’s footsteps this year when she arrived at Kent State and became the newest member of the Lawson family to join Kent State athletics.

“He always pushed me to be involved in athletics,” Abbie said. “But I have always really, really enjoyed it, so it’s good to have him (at Kent State) as support.”

Like her father, Abbie has a passion for sports and an unyielding drive to succeed. Because Abbie and Bill share that competitive nature, Abbie said if one of them loses and the other one wins at something as simple as playing basketball, minor tensions will flare.

Bill said they butt heads on almost everything and always try to outperform each other.

“It’s always the one-upsmanship or who did what better or always making comparisons,” Bill said. “She absolutely hates to lose at anything, but I guess that’s me looking in the mirror.”

The two found a common bond with competitive sports, which have linked the two since Abbie was a small child.

“That’s all she’s ever seen, being around great athletes ever since she was a little girl,” Bill said. “She’s seen sports at a high level, so I think it’s been somewhat of a big influence on her.”

Abbie was born in Iowa and lived there with her parents for five years until they moved to Oregon. They lived there for six years until the family eventually settled in Stow when Abbie was 11. Since her father served as the recruiting coordinator and coach for jumps, throws and decathlon for Oregon, Bill said Abbie practically grew up in Hayward Field, which he calls “one of the most storied track and field stadiums in the country.”

Abbie was surrounded by Olympians and high-caliber college athletes her whole life and said she took a lot away from that fulfilling experience.

Abbie’s interest in soccer began when she was only 4 years old. Ever since Abbie was able to walk, Bill said he always played sports with her in the backyard, be it just kicking a soccer ball around or shooting hoops in the driveway.

After Bill sparked Abbie’s general fascination with sports, Abbie raised her father’s appreciation of soccer, a sport Bill said he had no interest in before Abbie became involved.

“I didn’t have that much interest in soccer,” he said. “But once your kid starts doing a sport, you become a fan of the sport, just as I’m a fan of my daughter, too.”

Abbie’s parents, Bill and Jodie, can be found in the stands at every Kent State home game and most of the away games as well. Abbie said Bill has been a great coach to her throughout her soccer career in terms of moral support and has always shown a sincere interest in Abbie’s athletic career.

“It’s nice to have my parents there in case you have a bad game,” Abbie said. “It’s nice seeing them every game.”

Abbie said her dad has always been supportive as opposed to being the overbearing, coach-like dad. She said he never pressured her to do track and field at Kent State and allowed her to go her own way.

Bill added that he was supportive of whatever sports Abbie chose to pursue, whether it was soccer, track and field, basketball or volleyball: All sports in which Abbie participated during her time at Stow-Munroe Falls High School.

“There’s been no pressure,” Abbie said. “He’s all support. He understands that if soccer’s my thing, it’s my thing.”

Bill said he has been extremely proud to watch his daughter’s athletic career on both the high school and now college levels. He said watching his daughter play soccer for Kent State and maintain a starting role on the team has been great.

“I know she’s fortunate, and my wife and I feel blessed that she gets to play and make a contribution out here at Kent State,” Bill said.

Kent State head coach Rob Marinaro praised Abbie for her fantastic attitude and willingness to play many different positions on the field during games.

“She’s an extremely competitive person who’s willing to do whatever she needs to do in games,” Marinaro said. “She understands the dynamic of the team, and she’s been a leader even as a young player to help our team find positive results.”

With Abbie playing so often in her role as a starter on the soccer team, Bill said the process of watching Abbie play, especially in close games, does get a little nerve-wracking for him from time to time.

“This is harder for me to watch my daughter play, not only in college but at the high-school level, as well, than it is coaching my own team,” Bill said.

Still, Bill’s booming voice resounds over Zoeller Field on game day as he cheers on Abbie and the rest of the team. Abbie said while her father can be “a goofball” when he yells from the stands, she still finds comfort knowing he is right there pulling for her.

“I can always pick his voice out,” Abbie said. “It’s very prominent. It’s just nice to know that even though everything’s going on around me, I can still hear him, and I know he’s there for me.”

And Bill wouldn’t have it any other way.

“Win, lose or draw, we have always been supportive of her, and what she’s taken away from that is (to) never give up no matter what,” Bill said.

Contact Richie Mulhall at [email protected].