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Author: Crystal Dalton

I am a first year coach's wife to a high school football coach in Georgia. I teach high school Literature. Coach and I blended our families in 2020, and I am new to the coaching life. I am mom to Keegan, 11 and Auburn, 9 and bonus mom to Deuce, 17 & Gloria, 15.

Learning How to Support My Black Coach Well

Learning How to Support My Black Coach Well

Note to the Reader: To read the first part of Crystal’s story read I Married a Black Coach; This is My Story 

As coach wives, we support our Coach through the plethora of emotions that come along with coaching. We listen when he comes home at an ungodly hour venting about a frustrating practice. We are a springboard for new ideas on drills or plays. We console him after a tough loss.

We put Coach in check when he needs a dose of reality, and we get the privilege of sharing with him the many, many joys of this profession. The words and actions that I provide for my coach in most situations are, I am guessing, similar to those that every other coach wife presents to her over-worked sweetheart. However, in some situations, I have found myself at a loss of how to provide my Black Coach with the support he needs, specifically where jobs are concerned. 

Throughout our journey together in coaching (he’s been in the game for a while but I’m a new-ish coach wife), there have been a few, distinct times when I could clearly see that Coach needed support from me, but I just did not know what to say or do.

What am I supposed to say when he tells me that we can’t take that job because that community isn’t accepting of interracial relationships? Or, that he isn’t even sending in his resume to certain places because he has heard that Black coaches don’t get a fair shakedown there when it comes to upward mobility?

And, let me be clear, it’s not like he was trying to replace Dabo or Saban, ya’ll. We are talking about logical, practical, qualified career choices that he was opting out of simply because of the color of his skin.

What do I say to that?

How do I respond?

Do I encourage him to ignore the prejudice and go hard after his dreams?

Or do I listen to and trust in his wisdom where racial issues are concerned?

(After all, as a white woman, my knowledge and experience on this topic are quite limited).

I have been stunned, and frustrated, and angered, and hurt watching my Coach navigate through this bigotry that, I am guessing, white coaches do not have to experience because, you know…privilege. There is really no other way to describe it. 

As always, I am speaking solely from my own experiences and observations, nothing else. I am not claiming that my experiences are true for all, but they are definitely true for me and my Coach. Supporting my husband is part of what I am called to do as his wife and as his partner. For me, learning to support him through racial issues that are intertwined with his passion, his mission, and his calling is one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. 

i married a black coach; this is my story

I Married a Black Coach; This is My Story

Sports have been said to be one of the world’s most level playing fields. Talent, drive, hard work, and performance supersede almost all else most of the time; at least where players are concerned.

Yes, athletes are, generally speaking, judged mostly on their ability to execute and win games.

But does this performance-based evaluation extend into the realm of coaching? Considering football, my answer is no. 

I am a white woman who is married to an African-American high school football coach in the South.

I grew up watching football and loving sports. I was one of those girls who followed ESPN and knew about recruiting classes and player statistics when I was in high school and college. Not so much these days because, you know … life… but I was once “her.”

Even though I followed football so closely, it wasn’t until I was with my husband that I realized the severity of systemic racism in coaching football across all levels. 

Notice what I said—systemic racism. This does not necessarily mean that coordinators, head coaches, administration, boards, general managers, owners, etc are all deep-seated bigots. No, that is not systemic racism.

This term is for racial inequalities that are embedded into a society so deeply that one can have no racial prejudices personally and still be an active participant and even benefit from the institutionalized oppression already in place.

I know because it was me.

Before I was with my husband, the thought that football, of all things, upheld racial inequalities never crossed my mind.

Think about it, when we watch on Friday nights, or Saturdays, or Sunday afternoons there are lots of black and white participants on the field. But what about leading the sideline? Or in the press box? Or in the office? Or even better yet, in those swanky club boxes (or wherever the owners sit). Where is the diversity in those places?

I am sad to say that, through my own ignorance, these questions never crossed my mind before I became not just a coach’s wife, but a black coach’s wife.

My claims are based solely on my observations and personal experiences.

No fancy scientific or social experiments have been performed. But let’s be real, we don’t need any of those for proof.

Truth be told, there are about a million different angles from which to analyze this complex issue and twice as many statistics and facts and figures I could throw out to prove that this is real, but you can Google all of that (and, if you are honest with yourself, you probably already know it’s true).

My goal is simple: a conversation that hopefully leads to the first step—admission. Admitting that systemic racism is alive and well in one of the most popular sports and lucrative businesses in our country on all levels.

Admitting that the color gap between the end zone and the upstairs offices is miles wide and decades deep.

And admitting that over time, without knowledge, hatred, or prejudice, white coaches and the like have long benefitted from an institutionally racist system.

After all, the first step on the road to recovery is admitting there is a problem, right? 

Dear Coach, A Little Help Buying a Gift for Your Wife

In case you are eyeball deep in a playoff run, constantly scrolling Football Scoop, about to start coaching yet another sport, or already looking at next year’s prospects, let me remind you that it is already December. This means your amazing, remarkable, beautiful, intelligent, epic wife/fiance/girlfriend is soon to need some gifts that match her amazing-ness.

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Dear Coach, I’m Choosing Grace

We are partners in ife. For us, that life includes football and all it entails. Please know, Coach, just because you are in-season, that doesn’t mean my needs are put on hold. I don’t need less of your time or attention. I don’t need less of your focus or your love. I don’t need less physical closeness and intimacy.

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