Journal, Marriage

When Your Coach is a Mountain Climber

Have you ever driven past a big fancy turf field with shining new lights and your husband leans over to ask, “How would you feel about moving to Georgetown?”

Or perhaps you were taken aback by a dinner conversation he struck up out of blue saying, “You know, there is this opening in Houston….”

Just when I feel like we are in a regular rhythm of life and things are settled, he surprises me with the idea of picking up and starting somewhere new. Our little football family has only worked for two schools so far in almost 15 years of coaching, but every once in a while an idea will pop into his mind and start a chain reaction of possibilities.

I realized today that when it comes to my Coach, I married a mountain climber. Thankfully, not the literal kind that spends years training and heads for Kilimanjaro or Everest, but the kind of man always looking for the next challenge, the next thing to conquer.

That competitive spirit is a requirement if you are going to make a living showing young people how to train and fight to win. I love that my Coach is always thinking of ways to strengthen both minds and bodies, equipping them to be tougher for their journeys ahead in both life and sports. But can I be honest and say … it can be a bit nerve-wracking to be married to a mountain climber.

Coaching is one of those professions where the view of the next mountain over can seem really appealing. Almost every year there is a shuffle of staff members who have decided they have conquered the mountain they are on and are ready to move on to a new challenge. Perhaps they have made the same climb for several years and the thrill is gone. Sometimes the idea can even come from well-meaning parents or former players that say, “Don’t you want to come over to the next mountain with us?” Mountain climbers just have it in their blood.

Some coaches like the challenge of a new crop of students every year to work with. For my middle school Coach, that coaching mountain can be steep and grueling because it is condensed into two years rather than four. Coaches have to build a solid foundation of technique and discipline, but every once in a while they want to take risks and see how far they can push those skills. He sees the potential in his players for them to become experts, but those time constraints mean he hands them off to a different coaching staff and only gets to watch that development happen from afar. He knows the next mountain over will be even harder for them to climb and hopes that he has equipped them with everything they need to make it to the top.

In other years, the climb can feel like he has started all over on the same mountain but now we are on the opposite side and the territory is unfamiliar. The dynamic of leadership can change just by bringing in one new member of the coaching staff, so even if the mountain is the same, it feels like a new path is being forged and the view can seem brand new.

In the best circumstances, coaches can feel challenged and energized at the start of a new school year, but there may also be years where the journey to the top feels strained, with team members that leave the rest of the crew off balance or left behind.

The challenge for me is to recognize that mountain climbing spirit and not squash it. My Coach is wired the way he is and I do love him for it, but it is quite the opposite of my nature. We have known many coaching families over the years that moved on to the next mountain far before we even considered it. Their family may have a far more adventurous spirit than ours! Every time my Coach even mentions another mountain, I immediately think of our house, my job, my kids’ schools, our network of friends…. But I can still encourage and support my husband’s need for a challenge.

Some day we may be on the same page about packing up our gear and staking out a whole new spot. For now, I will remind him what an accomplishment it is to have made it through another year with his current crew. They have risen above so many challenges and kept pushing through. They have helped each other become wiser, more disciplined, more patient, more creative, more appreciative of what it takes to shape their students into champions.

That sure seems like Everest to me.

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