This week when I contemplated that phrase again, I realized that it comes with a great deal of freedom too. The things that are “up to me” may mean that I am going to have to complete more tasks solo, but you know what else? It is also up to me to be the one who says which things are worthy of doing.
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.
Some families may think complete and early commitment might be the magic formula for turning out a champion, but it might also be a path that leads to burnout or injury.
It may be bittersweet, but sometimes change opens up a whole new happiness for you that you weren’t anticipating.
My husband began his career as a large high school’s Athletic Trainer and now serves as a middle school Athletic Coordinator. The high school in his cluster has many responsibilities given to their middle school coaches, including scouting trips, sideline responsibilities, game filming and more.
This year has been particularly challenging as the district opted to start a third football team for middle schools in both grade levels, adding another night when coaches stayed later and away from their families.
There were weeks when he had other responsibilities on top of just football, like PTA meetings and Meet the Teacher night. He tried to go cheer on other students at volleyball games and be a representative at Spirit Night fundraisers at local restaurants.
Sunday nights we usually had a calendar run down so I would know which nights we would even see each other before 9:00 pm.
Football season wears down even the strongest families as the weeks go on.
Months of telling your kids, “Daddy will be home after you go to bed, but you can give him hugs in the morning.” Making dinners while trying to help with homework and not just letting your kids zone out in front of the TV. (Trying, not always succeeding!) Happy conversations when his team wins and frustrated rants when something just isn’t clicking and they lose.
Every once in a blue moon, my husband will call me after an event has ended and just ask if I am okay with him grabbing some food and perhaps an adult beverage with another coach.
Here is where I want to share a magical piece of advice that a friend shared with me. She told me that when her husband would ask to go out with a friend, she would say yes unless there was a really big reason to say no.
“Save your no for when it really matters.”
I do appreciate that my husband is considerate enough to ask, and most of the time, it is already so late that all the kids are already in bed. Sure, I miss him and would appreciate some time for the two of us.
But I can also sense that when he asks for this extra time, it is because he needs to relax or build up a relationship with a fellow coach. Maybe they want to celebrate just making it through another week or maybe they want to talk X’s and O’s. I trust that the men that my husband hangs around are good guys and I don’t worry about what they are up to.
Plus, and here is the surprising best part, sometimes it doesn’t work out. There have been times when he texts me to check in, I say “Go for it,” and then he texts back to say that the other guys couldn’t go after all.
No criticism of their wives, because they may have had an exhausting night and really needed their husbands to get their booty back home. But then guess who still gets Wife Points for saying yes – Me!
My husband has learned that when I say no, it is because I genuinely need backup at home.
Maybe I am frantically trying to finish a school project that is due the next day, or I need him to pick up some groceries on the way home. There are plenty of legitimate reasons why it could be an “All Hands On Deck” evening at our casa.
The point is that we have that understanding between us. We respect that there are times when friends can refill your emotional tank, and as football season comes to an end I will try to schedule more of those opportunities for myself too.
It can be really tempting to be greedy of my husband’s time when I feel like it is already in such short supply this time of year.
However, the years have taught me that a coaching staff with great camaraderie is a special thing that can make the seasons better. If an occasional night out is one way to keep it going, I am going to try to say yes.
I am going to save my “Heck no!” for the night when I am up to my elbows in craziness, and then thank my husband for coming to my rescue.
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