The Trolio family: ‘Comparison is the thief of joy’

The Trolio family - V.J., Collins, Allison and Cohen.
Staff Writer

President Theodore Roosevelt once said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” The late statesmen was advising people against comparing their lives to those of others. To do so will only bring self-imposed unhappiness, he advised.

A local coach says that bit of wisdom has proved useful as he navigates the hazards of being father and coach to not one but two sons, both of whom have promising golf futures.

“That is so true,” Oak Hill Academy golf coach and Old Waverly teaching pro V.J. Trolio says of the axiom.

“If we can help our kids set goals and let them be their goals and stay away from comparisons, we will do a better job as parents, coaches, friends,” he continues. “So often you hear ‘well he shot two under and you were four over’ or something like that. I have to remind myself all the time that’s not the approach,” Trolio continues.

His oldest son, Cohen, will be a sophomore at Oak Hill Academy this fall. He recently committed to play golf at LSU. His brother, Collins, will be an eighth-grader this fall.

Both, along with friend and teammate Wells William, won a state golf title this year, the school’s third in a row. So expectations are high on them with years remaining in prep golf.

“We are all given different gifts so when we compare ourselves to others or our kids to others, we are doing a disservice. We just need to learn to be the best we can be, not the best someone else is or wants us to be,” he states.

The “don’t compare” advice is particularly important for Trolio, with two sons who are both talented golfers at a young age. It’s allowed them to develop their own natural competitiveness in a healthy way and to become partners rather than opponents.

Trolio says he’s lucky in some ways because golf mostly is an individual sport played somewhat in solitude, unlike team sports where the interaction with a coach is up close and personal. In addition, he has good friends and colleagues who’ve been through the coach-son-player dilemma and mastered it.

“Jim Gallagher did it,” Trolio says of the former PGA player. “When I do see issues coming up, I’m fortunate to have some good people, good friends to be able to call and get feedback. I can pass that along to Cohen and Collins and it’s coming from a third party.”

Many people were more likely to listen to neighbors or grandparents than growing up than their parents, especially during the teen years. For Trolio, his friends are those outside voices.

That’s especially true now that his sons are getting into the stage of their game when they need more individual tips and instruction.

“Earlier, I taught Cohen and Wells and Collins as a group. Now it’s getting different. So the approach has to be a little different,” he describes. “When I see any hiccups coming, I outsource the advice.”

“I see it, the older they get, the more they get their own ideas. All the emotions when puberty kicks in…the emotions are turned on, the power, the desire, it’s turned on like crazy. The prefrontal cortex isn’t on yet…that doesn’t come until they get to about 23 or 24,” Trolio continues, putting a bit of science on the growing up process.

The prefrontal cortex is the cerebral cortex which covers the front part of the frontal lobe of the brain. This region has been implicated in planning complex cognitive behavior, personality expression, decision making, and moderating social behavior, according to

“I try to tell parents and try to remind myself, ‘we can’t make them that much better, but we can really screw them up.’ There is way too much daddy-ball in golf. That’s why I try to reach out to other experts when we can. My goal as a coach and especially as a parent is to give them opportunity, give them experience, expose them to people who are very good at what they do, not demand something of them,’ Trolio reflects.

He also has learned the value of time and space.

For one, his wife, Allison, does a lot of the travel during certain times of the year while he is teaching others the game at Old Waverly. He also knows that with Collins, a little space after a round is important, whether it’s been good or bad. To hear him tell it, it almost sounds like a commercial for a popular candy bar.

“We can’t talk about a round at all until he has had a Dr. Pepper and a Snickers. It’s important to understand in any sport, when they come off the field, their adrenaline is going, their emotions are high.

“Youth sports is about love and learning from mistakes and the joy of playing. It’s important to give them time and space to realize that and let them bring up the subjects,” he recounts of his own experience as father, coach and instructor.

“And with Cohen, I don’t call him really after the round if I am not there. I let him bring it up. Because ultimately it’s their process,” he adds.

He knows from which he speaks. As many as 200 players have come through Old Waverly for short- or long-term instruction and gone on to play Division 1 golf.

Four are on the men’s or women’s pro tour at some level currently.

“You see and learn that it never stops, the striving to get from one level to the next. But it is their goal, not someone else’s.”

Many successful coach-parent relationships have some other outlet that gives the parents and kids a separation. Trolio hasn’t seen a need for that escape just yet, although he has one even if he doesn’t realize it.

When asked, he responded, “Church,” not realizing how meaningful his quick response sounded.

“Golf is our hunting,” he adds, referring to the popular Southern link between father and son or daughter. “We an play and have fun. That’s what it’s about for us.”