McCaskill family bonds through basketball

Aztec's Robert McCaskill has found a balance between being a single father and a basketball coach to his two daughters, Lady Tigers starting players Myra and Makayla McCaskill

Jake Newby
Aztec High School girls basketball head coach Robert McCaskill poses for a portrait with his daughters, Myra McCaskill, left, and Makayla McCaskill during basketball practice on Thursday at Lillywhite Gym in Aztec.

AZTEC — Wherever life has taken Aztec girls basketball coach Robert McCaskill and his two daughters, basketball has followed.

Now at the tail end of his fourth season as coach of the Lady Tigers, the No. 14 seed in this year's Class 5A state tournament, McCaskill has coached his daughters, Makayla and Myra, for their entire prep careers.

McCaskill was awarded parental custody of his daughters when he was in his 20s, after finishing his own basketball playing career and a brief stint as an assistant coach, both at Eastern New Mexico University. The Dallas native said it was in the best interests of his daughters to relocate to New Mexico with him nearly 15 years ago.

"Mom wasn't fit to raise them in Texas at the time, and I just had to take them if I didn't want them to live in a position she was living in," he said. "Ever since they were 2 or 3 years old, I've had them."

McCaskill juggled single fatherhood and his passion for basketball by working at the Boys & Girls Club of Farmington until 2008, when he accepted a job as the boys basketball coach at Estancia High School.

He said the single-father gig has been a nonstop adventure.

"I remember sitting there, not knowing how to do hair, trying to look stuff up on YouTube and read books on how to braid hair, and they end up going into school with ponytails all over the place," McCaskill recalled. "But it's been such a joy. With both of them."

Makayla McCaskill, a senior, and Myra McCaskill, a junior — who are now in regular contact with their mother — participated in every sport and recreational activity they could while growing up between Farmington and Estancia.

"Ballet, dance, tap, cheer — every single thing out there," their father said. "Before they started basketball, they played club volleyball for a good while ... . They did basketball, track, they were in softball. Myra was in FFA. It was just a running gamut. Then we came back out here, and it was time for studies to take a front seat, so they couldn't do as many things as they did in elementary and junior high."

The McCaskills moved to Aztec four years ago. Robert McCaskill had offers on the table to coach the Bernalillo and Aztec girls basketball teams, and he chose Aztec, citing a familiarity with the Farmington area.

The timing was perfect for the McCaskill family, as Makayla McCaskill was coming under her father's tutelage as a freshman in high school. Her younger sister was entering eighth grade.

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The dynamic between McCaskill and his daughters has been tricky. As is often the case with parent-child relationships that spill over into high school sports, there have been highs and lows over the past four years.

"It's good and bad," Makayla McCaskill said.

"A lot of stuff used to really go home, honestly," her younger sister added. "He's done really well with the whole 'after game' thing, and not really speaking about anything at all until the next day. Mainly it's those practices, though, honestly. We've gotten kicked out a few times."

Makayla McCaskill smiles in an undated photo provided by her father, Robert McCaskill.

McCaskill admitted it can be tough to balance being both a father and a coach.

"They're under the microscope more during the season, because you gotta show you're not playing favorites," he said. "But it's a tough deal when you wear all the hats. At one point I was a teacher, too. They're really good students, but the times they had problems in school, I'd have to take the teacher hat off, put the parent hat on, then later switch that for the coaching hat. Sometimes it kind of bleeds into each other because you're around them so much. But it's worked more than it hasn't."

When it comes to his daughters' personalities, the father said a pair of old photographs he keeps in his office are still spot-on representations of the girls' differences.

"A picture's worth a thousand words, man," he said. "There's a picture their aunt took of them when they were about 2 and 3. They're both little, sitting on the steps in Texas with ice cream. Makayla's sitting there, kind of straight-faced, smiling, and Myra's looking goofy with her tongue out. That told you everything you needed to know about who they were — Myra has the attitude and the fire, and Makayla's laid back, calm and cool."

Myra McCaskill makes a silly face in an undated photo provided by her father, Robert McCaskill.

McCaskill believes both of his daughters have "alpha personalities."

When they played one-on-one games growing up, Myra McCaskill could never beat her older sister. That got under the skin of the younger McCaskill over the years, the girls' father recalled.

This season, Myra McCaskill is averaging 16.6 points per game and her sister is averaging 8.1 points and 7.3 rebounds per game. Their father credited his younger daughter for curbing her competitive fire this year and enjoying her final season playing with her sister in high school.

"I'm glad that I got to spend time with Makayla, playing with her, and we've achieved a lot together, honestly," said Myra McCaskill. "I'm really hoping we win Friday (versus Española Valley) so we can go to The Pit (in Albuquerque for the state tournament) together, because we've never done that before."

Her sister agreed.

"Just looking back and saying I played with my sister in high school," said Makayla McCaskill. "It's really cool."

Jake Newby covers sports for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4577.