Sheryl Yoast, meet Peyton Booth. Spunky little Sheryl, played by Hayden Panettiere, was the young, football-crazed daughter of coach Bill Yoast in the 2000 hit movie “Remember the Titans,” which starred Denzel Washington as coach Herman Boone.
Peyton, the daughter of current Wadsworth girls basketball coach Andrew Booth, not only yelled instructions to varsity players at Mansfield Madison as a 5-year-old, she now has the added pleasure of starting at power forward for her father.
“That’s really funny,” the 17-year-old junior said when asked if she had seen the film. “It’s one of my favorite movies. When I was little, my dad would tell me that girl reminded him of me.
“I’d be at all the practices, all the games, yelling out my opinions. My friends would be running around the gym or at home playing with dolls, but I was always into the game.”
Peyton was 2 when her father got the varsity job at Madison. After three years of angling to sit on the bench during games, she finally got there at 5, the theory being she would serve as the team’s water girl.
That job usually entails sitting at the far end of the bench, away from the coaches. Not for Peyton. She plopped down right next to the scorer’s table so she could be by Dad.
“She’s been on the bench for more than 200 games soaking it in,” Andrew Booth said. “She’s about as basketball-savvy of a kid as I’ve ever been around. If I wasn’t out there shouting instructions, she could run the show.”
A friendly, polite girl with a great sense of humor who has never been accused of being shy, Peyton didn’t just sit on the bench as a child. She’d shake her head in disgust when she felt an official had made a questionable call, listen in during huddles and even shout instructions from time to time.
“I’ve been extremely opinionated since I was little,” she said with a laugh. “I can remember girls would be shooting free throws and I’m 6 years old screaming, ‘Hold your follow through.’”
In the spring of 2005, when Peyton was finishing the third grade at St. Mary’s in Mansfield, her father got the job at Wadsworth. By the fall, she was attending fourth grade at Wadsworth’s Franklin Elementary. Younger brother Alec was in the second grade.
“They were still young enough where the roots were not so deep it would be tough to move,” Andrew Booth said.
Basketball, of course, eased the transition, as Peyton quickly joined a Wadsworth AAU program while continuing to make sure her father did his job correctly.
With his little assistant always around to help him break down film and compile scouting reports, Andrew Booth did just fine.
In his first season, the Grizzlies reached the Division I state tournament. Now in his eighth year, he has a 151-33 record at Wadsworth, including 11-1 this season. The Grizzlies have gone 96-8 in the Suburban League, where they currently have a 39-game winning streak, and qualified for regionals four times.
Peyton has been at nearly every game, first as a water girl/unpaid assistant and later as a player. In her father’s office, there’s a picture of her hugging her dad after the 2005-06 team earned its state berth. She was 10 at the time.
“You can see in her eyes she couldn’t wait to play for her dad,” longtime Wadsworth assistant Mark Postak said.
That happened in Peyton’s freshman year, when a series of injuries to other players left the varsity team in need of depth.
It was not a move Andrew Booth, a star 6-foot-5 player at tiny Lucas High, where he was one of 47 students in the 1985 senior class, made lightly. He wanted to bring his daughter along slowly and make sure no one could say she was receiving special treatment.
“I was in no way concerned with catching any flack on my end,” the 46-year-old said. “I was more concerned if she would catch any flack.”
Longtime Wadsworth assistants Postak, Tom Carnes and Mike Schmeltzer Sr. made it clear to Andrew Booth that his daughter belonged, so he had no choice but to adhere to the simple philosophy he’s always tried to follow when it comes to coaching Peyton.
“What I want for her is to have a normal experience,” Andrew Booth said. “I don’t want her to be singled out or given more, but I also don’t want her to be taken away from just because she’s the coach’s daughter. I just want her to have the best experience possible.”
Coach on the floor
Now 5-10 and in her third year on the varsity, Peyton is averaging 5.3 points for Wadsworth. That’s not eye-popping, but she leads the Grizzlies in rebounds, assists, steals and blocks.
“She’s the person you know is going to do all the little things,” said Wadsworth point guard Rachel Goddard, The Gazette’s 2011-12 MVP in the sport. “She gets rebounds, she dishes out assists. She’s that teammate everyone loves to have.
“She’s grown up with it her whole life and she’s watched her dad go to state. She’s loved it. She’s always wanted to be that player.”
In addition to being a fantastic teammate, Peyton is the player coaches love to have because she understands all aspects of the game, from X’s and O’s to intangibles like chemistry.
“She’s a coach’s dream,” Postak said. “She’s a jack of all trades. She can score, she can rebound, she can pass and she can defend. She can do a little of everything. She’s not a star in any one aspect, but she can do everything.
“No matter what she does, she will always be seen all four years as the coach’s daughter. The nice thing is she is blessed with the ability and the drive to be a great high school player.”
Peyton, who carries a 3.5 grade-point average and would like to continue playing basketball in college, has a basketball IQ that is off the charts.
She not only sees two or three passes ahead, she sees two or three possessions ahead and understands how all the pieces fit together to form a whole.
“I know what we’re doing on almost a different level,” she said with no hint of bragging. “I’ve been around it so much that things are just easier. I’ve grown up around the system.
“Our team is way, way more important to me than myself. Whatever it takes to win, I’m going to do the little things.”
Right at home
This is where the typical story about a parent coaching his child would describe how both leave the game in the gym and don’t bring it to the dinner table.
Except the Booths aren’t typical.
To begin with, they both point out there aren’t many family dinners during hoops season. Beyond that, both love basketball so much it’s impossible for them to sit on the couch and watch a college game without discussing floor spacing, ball movement and weak-side defense.
“She’s always been like his assistant coach,” said Rachel Booth, Peyton’s mother and Andrew’s wife. “When they’re not watching a Wadsworth game, they’re watching a boys game or watching college games. My son, too.
“Peyton loves to sit and debate coaching decisions and player decisions. She always has an opinion to give.”
When emotions are raw, however, father and daughter give one another space.
“Right after a loss or if Peyton hasn’t had a good game, they usually don’t discuss it until the next day — unless Peyton brings it up,” Rachel Booth said. “If she doesn’t bring it up, he’s really good about letting it go.
“He’s better than I am about it. Sometimes I’ll say, ‘What do you think about this? Are you going to tell her this?’ He’s like, ‘Take it easy, Coach.’ I’m purely the mother giving an uneducated opinion.”
It’s important to note that Peyton’s relationship with her father was not mapped out. It has developed naturally, day by day, for years.
“My freshman year, it was kind of hard,” Peyton said. “It was weird adjusting to playing for him, but now it’s completely fine. We have a system that works.”
While extremely intense on the court, Peyton and her dad both have dry senses of humor and quick wits. The person they most like to poke fun at is themselves.
At practice, Peyton doesn’t even attempt to call her father “Coach Booth.” He’s just “Dad.” He’s always been “Dad.” She accepts this, her father accepts this and all Wadsworth’s players and assistant coaches accept this.
Everyone is so relaxed and comfortable, in fact, that sometimes Peyton goes a step further.
“Every once in a while,” Andrew Booth said, “she’ll let slip with a ‘Daddy’ at practice. It doesn’t happen very often, but when she does that, it always catches my attention.”
Reason to smile
It would not surprise Andrew Booth, a special education teacher, if his daughter became a teacher and coach.
Then again, she currently broadcasts Wadsworth junior varsity boys games on the city’s community television station with close friend and teammate McKenzie O’Brien, so her mother can picture her as the next Erin Andrews.
Peyton acknowledges both are possibilities, then lets loose with a hearty chuckle while saying, “I’ve always wanted to be an orthodontist.”
For now, though, she’s Wadsworth’s starting power forward, a great teammate, a very solid player and, of course, the coach’s daughter.
There’s no escaping the latter — not that she’s ever really wanted to — so Peyton chooses to embrace it.
“Sometimes I’m like, ‘Dad, you just need to leave me alone right now. I’m not in the mood,’” Peyton said. “But that doesn’t happen very often. We understand each other on a different level. He’ll give me a look or something and I’ll just know.
“I’m really, really close to my dad. I’m a daddy’s girl. We’re really close with basketball, but outside of it, we’re really close, too. We talk to each other about a lot of things.”
Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or firstname.lastname@example.org.