Glenn Caruso was 30 years old the last time he served in the capacity of assistant coach. The year was 2005.

Fast forward to last Thursday: The longtime University of St. Thomas football head coach worked the dugout as assistant coach of a 14U Highland Ball softball team.

He accepted this job before the head coach could even finish her sentence.

"Dad was like, 'What are we wearing? What time? What do I need to bring? What are our signs?' " said 18-year-old Anna Caruso, who just finished her freshman year at St. Thomas.

Dad describes it as a pinch-me moment as a parent and a highlight in a distinguished coaching career that includes six national coach of the year awards and a .851 winning percentage at St. Thomas.

"I know nothing about softball," Caruso admitted. "I never even played in so much as a beer league growing up. To be able to learn from her is wicked awesome."

This was nothing new though. He leans on his daughter when he's coaching football too.

As a freshman last fall, Anna charted plays on the sideline during games in search of tendencies and other intel to help her dad's game-management strategy. Caruso calls his daughter's input a "massive winning edge."

Caruso offered her a role on the eve of the first scrimmage of training camp. His reasoning was simple: His daughter was perfect for the position of in-game strategy and data research student assistant.

"To say she grew up around [football] is an understatement," he said.

Generational teachings

Analytics have long been a core tenet of Caruso's coaching style. He believes data exposes tendencies in human behavior. He traces his affinity for taking risks as a coach based on statistical odds to observing his own father work a courtroom as an attorney.

His dad occasionally brought him to work in the mid-1980s. Caruso would sit in the back of the courtroom and study the way his father handled a trial.

"He wasn't necessarily the smartest man in the world, but he was very thoughtful," Caruso said. "I could see him take apart an attorney who had a far fancier education. It was all about knowing people and odds. The best education I ever got and not even close."

He has applied those lessons to coaching, and Anna, the oldest of Caruso's three children and his only daughter, has been there to soak it all up. She attended practices regularly as a kid and observed her dad's style.

These two have always had a special bond. They used hand signals to communicate when she was on the basketball court as an 8-year-old. If Dad made a looping motion with his finger, that meant she should concentrate on the rhythm and flow of a game. If he tapped his watch, that encouraged her to think about time and score late in a game.

Anna became a varsity softball captain and all-conference basketball player at Cretin-Derham Hall. She even picked majors at St. Thomas — psychology and data analytics — that align with her dad's coaching principles.

The role he offered her caught her by surprise though. "I didn't really know what all that entailed," she said.

Her duties were limited to game day so she could focus on school and playing softball for the Tommies during the week. She became a football analyst on Saturdays.

Anna wore a headset and charted different game situations — down and distance, play type, third downs, etc. Her dad consulted with her after every series, both offense and defense.

"I don't know all the X's and O's," Anna said, "but I can pick up tendencies and patterns."

Her insight and presence helped her dad in the heat of the moment.

"The best thing about having her on the sideline was, we're pretty serious but we're also kind of goofy," he said. "Emotionally, you can be in a really stressful time, and to turn around and see her — she'll make a little note that will make me laugh or give me a face."

Caruso doesn't want to give away secrets, but he said Anna deciphered one opponent's offensive tendency that paid dividends in a win.

"That was a little nugget that you're able to share with the staff," he said.

NFL coach takes notice

Anna, who turns 19 on Monday, is keeping an open mind to career paths, including football coaching. She is doing more intensive football study this summer and plans to help the team again next season, though her exact role has not been defined yet.

She attended the national football coaches convention in January and connected with a group of women coaches who are breaking barriers. Anna has joined the group on a few video calls since then.

Brandon Staley is a current NFL head coach. Long before the Los Angeles Chargers hired him, Staley served as Caruso's defensive line coach in 2009. Anna was 5 years old then and uncommonly mature for her age, Staley recalled this past week.

Staley and his wife grew close to the Caruso family. He has kept tabs on Anna's athletic career and knew about her role last season. He wasn't surprised that she became proficient at it.

"Anna can do anything she sets her mind to," Staley said by phone after a Chargers organized team activities practice. "Whether it's coaching, personnel, you name it — whatever she gets involved with, she's going to be fantastic. She's an incredibly hard worker. She's unselfish. She's really smart. And she's very adaptable."

She's showing those traits as a first-time head coach in softball. Head coaches typically position themselves along the third base line. Anna and her dad discussed a different strategy. She stood at first base, figuring more of her players will reach first than third, which allows her more opportunities to talk to them. Her dugout was on the first base side, so that also gave her more chances to provide instruction during the action.

"I think that's something that might be a winning edge," Caruso said.

And if it's unconventional, so be it.

"It's about what's going to make us better," Anna said.

They won their debut together. They celebrated on the drive home by reviewing the game and discussing areas to emphasize at the next practice.

"The time of my life," the proud dad said.