No words are necessary.
When Churchill varsity girls basketball coach Pat Fisher turns to her husband Phil Fisher several rows up in the stands, he flashes a two-finger signal at her.
With that, Pat Fisher knows how many fouls her starting forward has picked up, and whether it’s time to put in a substitute.
It’s an evolution of the Fishers’ teamwork from the days when Pat Fisher was coaching her sons in recreational leagues, long before she would guide Churchill’s varsity girls team to the 2002 state championship.
“There have been times when I’ve been unaware of the other team’s full situation,” said Pat Fisher. “He knows what I want before I know it sometimes.”
WHEN PLAY RESUMES, a low-volume show carries on in the stands. Flanked by two or three student managers, Phil Fisher calls a play-by-play throughout the game as he and the managers keep tally.
“Morgan, defensive rebound… Alis for three… Circle it.”
Except for the calling out of statistics, Phil Fisher rarely raises his voice during gametime.
“I prefer to keep under the radar screen,” he said. “It’s better to keep my head down and give her what she needs. Nobody needs any distractions like that.”
“It’s so much fun to watch them; they are the perfect team together,” said assistant coach Chris Campbell. “They more or less complete each others’ thoughts. Sometimes we’re thinking that we’re getting out-rebounded, and we’re not. The numbers don’t lie.”
THE FISHERS MET as students at the University of Maryland, where both were studying physical education. They were married in 1974 and moved to Silver Spring.
She began coaching basketball 14 years ago, first for her sons’ recreational teams, then for the Cabin John Middle School team. She joined Churchill in 1995, first as a junior varsity coach, and five years later was named coach of the varsity team.
As Pat Fisher moved up in the coaching world, her husband assisted by keeping score during the games. Now a defense contractor, Phil Fisher considers his sports knowledge to be on the intermediate level.
“I was exposed to basketball, and I had to be quasi-informed at basketball along with many other sports. By no means is my knowledge anywhere near hers,” said Phil Fisher.
“I COUNT ON HIM for every statistic I need [and] his stat sheet has evolved through the years,” said Pat Fisher.
The couple now turns out a spreadsheet tracking the team and its players in 25 statistical categories. Each Churchill player gets her own printout as a numerical “report card.”
Phil Fisher also maintains an alumni e-mail database, sending graduated Churchill players a weekly newsletter update on the team’s performance. All graduates from the past three years had the option to join the list or not; none wanted to be left out.
When the spring varsity season arrives, the Fishers will be working in tandem outdoors. Pat Fisher, varsity softball coach at Churchill, will benefit from her husband’s behind-the-scenes help from keeping stats to maintaining field lines.
“I know a lot of spouses that are very supportive, but they don’t work together,” said Campbell. “You can just see the love that’s grown through the years, and you see they share the same passion, which is these kids.”