For any television producers interested in creating a reality show centered on family, school and sports, take a look at Tom and Leah Dasovich and their daughters, Emma and Evelyn.
Their life is a wild ride of girls basketball practices and games at Minnetonka High School, where Leah is the head coach and teaches English … all manner of events at Lakeville South, where Tom is the activities director … and plenty of things that keep Emma, 11, and Evelyn, 5, busy. Thanks to a nanny, help from grandparents and friends, and a family schedule that is often frantic, everything clicks.
The Dasoviches live in Minnetonka, a short drive to school for Leah, Emma and Evelyn; Tom’s commute is about 35 minutes to Lakeville South. In a rare scheduling blessing for which all are grateful, Leah’s team played at Tom’s school on Tuesday evening. The girls rode the team bus to the game and hung out with their dad while mom coached. Minnetonka won the game 63-38, after which the girls helped Tom stack chairs from the team benches on a cart and put them in a back room before heading to the bus with their mom and her players.
Life used to be a little simpler. “Oh gosh, we talk about that a lot,” Leah said with a smile. She looked at her husband and said, “Remember when we used to go to movies? When we used to sleep in?”
For six years Tom was the boys basketball coach at Minnetonka while Leah was on the girls coaching staff. Other than deciding when each team would have the gym for practice, that was a pretty easy scenario. And now?
“We’re making it work,” Leah said after Tuesday’s game. “When we were doing it together (coaching at Minnetonka) I would do the whole winter calendar. That just doesn’t work; things change so frequently.”
Almost every day is different. Orchestrating things means mapping out schedules in advance but each evening Leah and Tom try to plan for the next day. Their alarms go off one minute apart in the morning – hers at 5:15 and his at 5:16, to make sure neither oversleeps – and Tom is usually the first to leave for school before 6 a.m.
A nanny helps with the girls, and Minnetonka assistant coach Stacie Olson teaches at Emma’s middle school so she can sometimes give Emma a ride after school to meet up with mom. “We’re really blessed to have good child care,” Leah said.
Tom was a head boys basketball coach for 13 years at Columbia Heights, Henry Sibley and Minnetonka. He led Henry Sibley to a Class 4A state runner-up finish in 2008 and also took the Warriors to state in 2009 and 2010. Leah’s Minnetonka team was the Class 4A state champion in 2016 and returned to the state tournament last year.
Tom is in his first year as activities director at Lakeville South after holding a similar position at Watertown-Mayer for two years. Leah is in her seventh season as head girls basketball coach at Minnetonka (she previously was an assistant coach there for seven years).
Family dinners at home are rare on weekdays, and Leah’s team has games every Saturday in December. Tom has more evening activities to manage at Lakeville South than he did at Watertown-Mayer, meaning some days he is gone from 6 a.m. until 10 p.m. He said it’s almost like being a traveling salesman who is gone for days at a time.
“Sometimes I’m leaving before the kids wake up and getting home when they’re asleep. I’m sleeping in my own bed but not getting that family time. I can go a couple of days like that, and it’s almost as if I was in Chicago or someplace else.”
Sundays are a day for the family to sit back, take a breath and relax together. But not always. “Yes, usually,” said Leah, “depending on if Emma has a tournament.”
On Saturday Minnetonka will play a home game with Apple Valley as part of the Breakdown Tip-Off Classic, while Tom will be working as an analyst on a webcast from boys Breakdown games at Hopkins. Emma, meanwhile, will join her travel basketball team for a tournament in Burnsville, hitching a ride with another family while Leah’s mom watches Evelyn.
Logistical complications like that made Tuesday’s game special.
“Being able to see them and have them all in one place, that was fun,” Tom said. “That was a cool thing. And I was able to introduce them to people I know at Lakeville South. That was maybe the first time all three of them had all been down here at the same time.”
After the game Tom asked Evelyn if she wanted to ride the bus with her mom and the Skippers or go home with dad. He explained that he wouldn’t be able to leave as soon as the team did, and Evelyn went with mom and Emma.
Tom (a Hopkins High School grad) and Leah (St. Cloud Apollo) met when they were students at St. Cloud State; she played basketball and he played football. Both had knee injuries and did rehab at the same time in the training room, where they talked for the first time.
Here they are years later, 30-something parents who love what they do. Before Tuesday’s game, Tom heard a common question: Do you cheer for your wife’s team or your school’s team?
“It was fun for me,” he said. “My line to everybody was it’s either a win-win or a lose-lose. I feel happy for my wife and her success and I’m also cheering for Lakeville South and hoping our teams do well.”
Young coaches, especially women, are often torn between their team and their family, with some stepping away from coaching to focus on their children. Tom said Leah is a role model for women who coach.
“Nothing against people who make choices to spend more time with their family, but the fact that she’s been able to do both and do it well makes her a good role model,” Tom said. “Even as an AD, finding quality female coaches – I have one here (at South) with Angie Iverson-Ohnstad, she’s got two daughters, as well – she’s doing the same thing Leah is. That’s becoming a rarity, sadly.”
Leah said she has questioned the family’s hectic life but knows they are fortunate.
“There are days when I’m tired, the teaching load is hard, I sometimes feel like we aren’t giving our kids the right attention that I’d love to be able to give them,” she said. “But then I step back and I think, ‘Where else would they be but this gym?’ All these people love them. We are really lucky to have the life that we have. What else would we want to be doing?”Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn