I don’t know it all. I actually pride myself on being honest enough to admit it. But, I have been a coach’s significant other for almost 15 years now, and I’ve learned a thing or two along the way.
We’ve had highs and we’ve had lows. Looking back on our journey so far, I can’t say there’s any one thing I would change. I just wish I’d known these few things from the very beginning:
1. Grow where you are planted.
You might not be where you want to be or think you should be, but don’t let the fear of being uprooted keep you from growing now. I did this, every time we moved to a new place. I told myself we wouldn’t be here long, so why bother. Why bother making friends, why bother getting to know the area, why bother making the house a home, etc. Go out and get involved in your community, even if it means it’ll hurt that much more when the call comes to move again.
2. Everything you are going through and have gone through is to better you and your relationship with your Coach.
We’ve definitely had some valleys, and not always from doing bad. We’ve had a few postseasons where we didn’t know if his job was safe because they did so well. We’ve also had the lows that come from “underperforming”. Our strength and resilience have been tested, and so will yours, more than once even. But we came out every time on the other side closer and more appreciative of this life we’ve made together.
3. Everyone is making sacrifices. EVERYONE.
You are making sacrifices, your Coach is making sacrifices, your kids are making sacrifices, your extended families are making sacrifices. BUT only two people made the conscious decision to live this life: you and your Coach. This has been the hardest for me to learn. I’ve made a lot of sacrifices for my Coach. In the beginning, when things would get difficult, I’d automatically default to blaming him and his job. That doesn’t help the situation get any better or easier. So let go of the resentment. No sacrifice is more sacrificial than the others.
4. Most people won’t understand your lifestyle, and that’s OKAY.
This lesson finally sank in for me on my second Mother’s Day as a mother. In my Coach’s sport, the playoffs start Mother’s Day weekend. I was 6 months pregnant with my second and my first was not even a year and a half. The team made the playoffs and had to travel. They played on Mother’s Day. So, I went about my day like any other. But, it was all the looks and comments of pity from everyone (or at least it felt like everyone) in the grocery store. That day, I realized that nothing I could say would explain that it was actually a good thing my Coach wasn’t there to celebrate. It doesn’t make it easier, but I don’t have to carry the burden of worrying about what others think our life should look like.
5. Always, always remember what it feels like to be a newbie.
Embrace any form of significant other, girlfriend/boyfriend, fiancé, or wife/husband, because the title doesn’t matter. We are all in this together. Remember how it felt to be treated as insignificant by others because you weren’t yet a “wife”. And remember those who treated you like one of their own, despite the lack of a wedding ring. Treat every significant other equally, and help them to the best of your ability. This life is hard enough, don’t add to someone else’s discouragement.
Now, I’m not saying “You decided to marry/date a Coach, so grin and bear it.” I don’t.
You’re allowed to feel heartbreak after learning you are moving again.
You’re allowed to be nervous for your family’s future after yet another loss.
You are allowed to feel exhausted after carrying the extra load season after season.
You are allowed to feel overwhelmed and not sure how you are going to do it.
You are allowed to feel disappointed because you have to miss celebrations with family and friends because of Coach’s schedule.
What I am saying is don’t let all of that overshadow the good: supporting Coach’s life-long dream; seeing Coach lead, teach, and encourage countless players; watching your children rush the field to greet Coach after a big win or console him after a tough loss; coworkers who become family.
I can’t tell you your journey will be anything like mine. Each sport, each level, each Coach’s path is different. But, I can pretty much guarantee you’ll need to learn these five things too. I just hope you learn them from me sharing my experiences, and not ‘the hard way.’