The House Divided
BERRYVILLE -- Talon Whetham is a mere 17 months old and is already in the middle of a personality conflict. He can meow like a Bobcat when mom, Kristin, gives the command and roar like a Tiger when dad, Ryan, prompts the youngster.
Kristin, who coaches volleyball and track at Berryville, and Ryan, who coaches football and soccer at Green Forest, decided ultimately to call the wide-eyed tot a Ti-cat -- that is until it's time to start school in a few years.
"Kids always ask where he is going to go when he gets old enough," Ryan said during an interview with the trio. "I think we are in agreement that he will go to Green Forest so I can coach him. If we had a girl I think she would go to Berryville. It's tough coaching your own kid but we have a long way to go before that happens. But it would be tough to send him to a different school."
For the time being, that's not a problem the coaching duo from rival schools have to concentrate on. But as long as the couple retain their positions for the next few years, it will be something they will be forced to contend with.
Kristin Whetham is a Berryville graduate that bleeds purple and gold. Ryan, on the other hand, grew up in Elkins and knew nothing of the cross-county rivalry that is Berryville versus Green Forest.
"I didn't even grow up with a rivalry like this," Ryan said. "Our rival was Greenland...but it was nothing like this."
Kristin played basketball at Henderson State for four years and accepted a position at her alma mater straight out of college, where she has been ever since.
After a four-year football career at Arkansas Tech, Ryan continued his education at the University of Arkansas before receiving his masters at Arkansas-Monticello in 2006. He was offered a position as head 7th-grade football coach at Berryville and was an assistant for the varsity program as well as for the baseball team. Ryan left Berryville to assume the head coaching duties for 7th-grade football and varsity soccer and assisted the varsity football team at Green Forest.
"I'm an Elkins boy through and through," Ryan admitted. "I got the job at Berryville six years ago in junior high football for a year. Then something came along in Green Forest and I took it."
But he met Kristin along the way and a relationship ensued. After a couple of years dating, the couple wed on June 26, 2009.
"And it's been crazy since," Ryan said.
Crazy enough that Kristin had to collaborate with Ryan to remember their wedding date.
"We had it set for June 26 and figured out that was a Friday so we changed it to a Saturday," she said.
The two didn't jump the gun before deciding to marry.
"We waited a year to make sure we didn't kill each other first," Ryan said.
Kristin started working at Berryville in 2006 as a junior high basketball coach, head volleyball coach for junior high through varsity and as an assistant in softball. When Talon was born, she surrendered some coaching duties to focus more attention at home.
"I did that for two years then got out of softball and stayed the head volleyball coach," she said. "I took over junior high basketball for three years but when I got pregnant with Talon I gave up basketball to spend more time with him."
Kristin continues to direct the volleyball program and took over track two years ago.
Even with the house divided into shades of red and purple, Kristin said the Whetham household is still grounded in family.
"I don't think we are really all that divided," she said. "We are always supportive of each other. We want our teams to win obviously. I am purple and gold all the way. I have been purple and gold since kindergarten. Now, when it comes down to things like this week we are. I want Berryville to win. But I also support my husband."
Ryan said he catches the most grief about being a traitor after blowing off the Bobcats to teach the Tigers, especially from the group of juniors at Green Forest.
"They kind of give me a hard time," he said. "But I'm pretty fond of those juniors. That was my first class when I got over there. And they give me a hard time about it. But it's a good hard time. They ask how I can be married to a traitor."
Kristin and the Bobcats don't see it that way.
"For the kids from Berryville he is the true traitor," she said. "He is the one that left Berryville."
The two even coached against each other when Ryan first arrived in Green Forest, pitting the junior high basketball teams against each other for one season.
"When it boiled down to it we both wanted to win," Ryan said.
Since the duo no longer coach the same sports, the ties that bind are somewhat looser.
"I wanted Green Forest to win the in volleyball the other night," Ryan admitted. "But in all reality I'm glad she won because that's good for her team."
One other matter of discussion around the Whetham household is knowing inside information of the opposing teams.
"People ask if either of us has anything we can tell about what the other is going to do," Ryan said.
But the two never turn trade secrets.
"It's a fair fight," Kristin said.
Will the couple ever coach at the same school again, even if that means that Kristin transfers to Green Forest?
"It would be a hard decision," she pondered. "But if I had to, yes, probably. Sometimes you have to do certain things. It would be a tough pill to swallow but it could be done."