NIWOT — We have all heard the horror stories of parents coaching their kids and all the issues that come along with it.

This isn't one of those stories.

Sure, Marisa Purcell has had her share of moments with her daughter Lilli Martin in the 15 years she has served as her coach, especially the last three at Niwot High School.

But the good clearly outweighs the bad and hence the reason, after initially being reluctant to tell their story, they're comfortable sharing it now. For obvious reasons, Purcell is proud of everything they have accomplished both a coach and athlete; but more so as mother and daughter.

"I am tough on Lilli and in the past I have had some girls come up and tell me I am being a little too tough," Purcell said. "My expectations for her at times did become unrealistic, but that being said, she has done well and she works hard."

Said Martin: "Most days we go home and we have to talk it out. But for the most part I have gotten used to her having high expectations of me. We get it out of our systems and start over again because everyday is a new day."

That hard work has multiple purposes for Martin, both in but more importantly out off the gym.

She doesn't want to have to hear the whispers of "she is only there because her mom is the coach," because it is the furthest thing from the truth.


"People are going to have their own perceptions," said Purcell, who to this day is still cautious with how she handles everything.

But Martin's effort more than speaks for itself. She has made the awards podium twice in her first three seasons at the 4A meet in Thornton, placing fifth on the floor as a sophomore and seventh last year.

This year Martin, along with junior Lindsay Chohon and sophomore Taylor Green, give the Cougars a triple all-around threat. Throw in freshman Grace Stephenson and Niwot will be right back in the team title mix with defending champions Green Mountain and perennial power Elizabeth.

"My expectaions this year are just to go out and have fun. It's my last season and I just want to enjoy being a part of this team and competing with my mom; these are some of my closest friends and I've grown to love these girls like my own little sisters," said Martin, whose first sports love is track — where she is a stand-out at Frederick.

That sisterhood took a little bit of time to develop for Martin, whose family moved to Dacono just before her seventh grade year after growing up in and around the Standley Lake program in Arvada.

During her freshman season, when the Cougars were the favorites going into the state meet, Martin had to sit and watch as her mom — still an assistant at Standley Lake — helped guide the Gators to an improbable state title.

"That season will probably go down as one of the hardest and special seasons at the same time because of the outcome," said Purcell, who stuck with Gators coach and friend Kristen Larrington to win that title with just eight girls on a program that was nearly folded. "I think Lilli and I's relationship grew, because she was raised as a Gator; she worked out with them and she came to practice and it wasn't only hard for me to coach against her, but it was hard for her to not be competing as a Standley Lake Gator because that is all she knew."

Admittedly there were some tears shed on both sides, but Purcell would come to Niwot a year later and as an assistant helped the Cougars to their first title since 2001. She took over the head coaching duties in 2016.

Jon Yunt: or