"Lily? After all this time?" Albus Dumbledore
"Always…" Severus Snape.
While Severus was referring to his undying love for a woman who never returned his affection, this is the scene that plays out in my head whenever anybody is surprised that I still get nervous after all this time, and especially at the first game of every season. We will be starting our 20th season this year. And even with two decades of experience, yes, I still get nervous.
I still get nervous because…
It's basically a whole new team, believe it or not. Even if we were lucky enough for the coaching staff to remain untouched (which is a rare occurrence for most programs), a whole new group of kids is coming in as freshmen and transfers. And they are adjusting to more than just a new team. There are many personal life transitions going on off the field as well. And an entire group of leaders just left, with a new group rising up behind them that is trying to figure out how to lead in their own way. It takes time to work out the kinks and find their chemistry.
So yes, I'm nervous to see if and when it will all click.
Winning matters. We say it's not about wins and losses but guiding and encouraging the next generation, and that's not wrong. That is the biggest reason we wives sacrifice and do what we do. We know that coach is a great role model, so we help him in being able to do that for kid after kid, season after season. But to the people who hold our fate in their hands, winning is still a huge deal-like make or break. We can never truly be sure if a loss (or even a win) will put his job in jeopardy.
So yes, I am nervous that this could be our last season here.
But the biggest reason I still get nervous is because I've seen all that it takes to get to the moment when the game has just begun, and the possibilities are endless:
The players- I've watched them work through adversity on and off the field. Whether it's academic, personal, or an injury, most players don't stroll effortlessly into the game. They've had to claw their way to kickoff. I've watched them put in extra hours of practice and film study, plus lifting, ice baths, study tables, and an endless list of other things. They've had to navigate being a leader, a student, and an athlete, and all while everyone is watching them.
So yes, I'm nervous they might have reached their limits.
The coaches- I know how much time, energy, and sweat equity has gone into this game, this team, and this season from the coaches. It doesn't matter if it's year one or year twenty. Each game means the same to them. Not only because they work just as hard each season, but also because it means so much to their players. I've watched (and listened to) the coaches work through countless scenarios and problem-solve an endless amount of issues. But they can only guide and advise them so much before the players have to take it and put it into action. And that only happens in the heat of the game.
So yes, I'm nervous to see if they follow his instructions.
That's just a few reasons why leading up to the first game, you'll find me restless, often pacing, and unable to focus. And I may anxiously talk too much. Most of the time, it doesn't make sense because so many thoughts and worries are running rampant in my head. That's why, most of the time, all I can muster when I am asked, "You still get nervous after all this time?" is "Always."