Former Cougars stars get their sports fix in a different way
Back in the day it was all sports all the time for Doug and Darci Wellsandt, mixed in with helping on the family farm.
It worked out pretty well since they managed to go from Ritzville to Washington State on athletic scholarships and then play professionally, Doug briefly in the National Football League, Darci on basketball teams in Australia and Switzerland.
Sports are still a central part of their lives – Doug as a parent in North Idaho and Darci as a volleyball coach in Hermiston, Ore. – but with a different perspective.
“We don’t talk a lot about sports, to be honest, which is probably strange to say,” Darci said. “We talk more about family things.
“Sometimes we bounce things off each other. I use him as a sounding board if I need to deal with a parent because he’s a parent and I’m not. At times he uses me as a sounding board because I’m a coach and he’s not; he’s doing the role of parent.”
Parenting is what has changed the perspective.
“We’re never home and that’s not what it’s supposed to be,” said Doug, the father of six, four of them heavily involved in soccer. “Sometimes there’s more to life than sports. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed my time. I feel fortunate with what I got to do. … There are some good things out of it and I also think there are some bad examples going on in sports and it’s getting worse and worse – watching parents, how kids react to things on the field, how they treat each other.”
It’s not like he’s getting a completely different story from Darci.
“I think it’s gotten out of control in the sense of our expectations as a society on a student/athlete,” she said. “You have the sense they have to be involved (year-round). Instead of developing as a high school athlete they’re already supposed to know what they’re going to be good at.
“Growing up when we did there weren’t as many options. You were able to do multiple things. For me, going to college and having the opportunity to play both sports isn’t really an option any more. I’m lucky I grew up when I did. I think it would be hard for me to give one up.”
The Wellesandts were typical small-town athletes, playing sports year-round. They were just better than most.
Doug, who graduated in 1985, earned 12 letters, four each in football, basketball and track. An indication of his talents: a 14-point, nine-rebound average in basketball as a freshman, state 400-meter champion as a junior, scholarship for football.
Darci, who graduated in 1989, was team MVP all four years in volleyball, was the Class B record-holder in the long jump (17-feet, 5¾-inches) and high jump (5-5), scholarship for basketball.
Doug didn’t put up gaudy numbers as a tight end for the Cougars but at 6-foot-3, 248 pounds, he was noticed, getting drafted in the eighth round by the Cincinnati Bengals.
He played with Jets in 1990, getting into all 16 games and making five catches. He moved on to Miami in 1991 but never played, before returning to the family farm.
Just before that he met his future wife, whose family had moved from southern California to Coeur d’Alene, and they’ve been married 16 years. But after 10 years on the farm, he moved to Hayden and became a financial planner.
“There’s a little more to do than in Ritzville, unfortunately,” he said.
Darci was the only Cougar freshman in the 1989-90 basketball season to play in every game, averaging five points. The next fall she walked on to the volleyball team and earned a starting spot. However, when basketball rolled around she gave up volleyball and never went back.
She was No. 5 on WSU’s career scoring list with 1,110 points and No. 4 in games played at 109 when she finished. She then went to Australia for four seasons before deciding to become a teacher. While researching graduate schools she put her basketball resume online and ended up playing in Switzerland.
“It was beautiful,” she said. “Two extremes, in Australia the beaches and sun, in Switzerland you have the Alps. It was pretty amazing.”
Her second season she became more serious about becoming a teacher and applied online for the Whitworth Masters program. While there she was the head volleyball coach and an assistant basketball coach at St. George’s. Then her team in Switzerland called her, desperate for a player, and back she went.
Upon her return, she bumped into a friend that told her Reardan had an opening.
“I think that was 2001,” she said. “Gosh, it doesn’t seem that long ago.”
She taught elementary school, coached basketball, then got into volleyball, and after four years headed to Hermiston to teach sixth grade and coach volleyball.
“I don’t know if I have landed,” she said. “I enjoy traveling. I like meeting new people and becoming part of something new. At the same time, I like belonging to something. I think that’s something being on a team instills in you.”
Doug doesn’t miss football as much as he misses teammates.
“The daily hanging out with each other,” he said. “I don’t miss the aches and pains. I have enough of those.”
He hates seeing players get taken advantage of and enjoys the one-on-one of his business.
“Basically, it’s developing a game plan,” he said. “Where are you going to be in 20 or 30 years and how do we get there? That’s the fun part. There are challenges and pitfalls to get through.”
After having four children of their own, Tabitha, 14; Maysun, 11; Kai, 9; and Tugg 7, Doug and Heidi adopted two boys, Mac, 16 months, and Kipp, 8 months.
Though there are things about sports that bother him, it’s not all doom and gloom.
“Every parent thinks their kid is going to get a scholarship,” he said. “I feel good that I haven’t forced my kids to do (sports). If they want to, fine. My kids have more vision than I did at their age. It was sports for me. They have a lot more gifts than sports. They’ve very level-headed about everything. I’m very blessed.”
Darci said she learned many lessons playing sports, not the least of which is you can teach an old dog new tricks.
“You never stop learning,” she said. “Being coached at 30, 31 overseas, that’s when I think I figured it out. A lot of times as a high school- or college-age athlete you tend to think … there’s not much more you can learn. Whether it’s x’s and o’s or understanding the game a little bit better, you are always learning.”
Even from big brother.