It’s that time of year again. You’re white-knuckle gripping the steering wheel because you’re so deep into the game weeks it’s become your natural posture. It’s the time of year where you just need someone to do something you ask them to, precisely when you need it done. You need to be able to ask for help without feeling guilty for piling on one more thing. It’s the time of year where win or lose you are beginning to forget why you get excited for football season each August. I know this because I’m there too.
Whether it’s the 10:30 pm call from that angry parent or the group chat on Hudl that ends up with a team meeting scheduled during date night, football is now dominating even the most extreme margins of your calendar, and its intrusion is offensive.
Exhaustion is a funny thing. We are much quicker to recognize physical exhaustion, but it is mental fatigue that wreaks havoc on our relationships if we aren’t careful. So, while these scenarios don’t arise every season, I’ve learned that I need to prepare to identify and fight resentment every year.
It starts small. Your coach is so absorbed in film he forgets he’s left pens in his pockets again ruining the laundry. The milk is left on the counter after a late-night snack and spoils meaning there isn’t milk for breakfast cereal. But then there are the moments where the absent-mindedness goes too far, and a metal pan in the microwave causes a fire. (Hypothetically speaking of course ?)
It’s these moments when mental exhaustion meets resentment and the mental battle begins. While coach can’t seem to remember that dirty plates belong in the dishwasher, when it comes to football his memory is still perfectly intact. And the more examples I connect, the bigger the pit in my stomach grows and before I know it I’ve convinced myself once again that my husband prefers anything football related to me. And it’s crushing.
And while I know each marriage is different, twenty years of the football life has taught me something. He’s not choosing football over me. He’s doing his job to the best of his ability.
Early in our marriage, I would make it to mid-October before exhaustion would take over and I’d be in tears. My sweet husband, himself exhausted, would calmly listen as I reminded him that food does not magically appear on plates, clothes aren’t cleaned by magical animals, and I work too darn it! These were not things I needed to tell my husband. He is a wise man and understands how much I carry during the season, but there are only so many hours in a day, and he can not accomplish everything.
Coaching is a demanding profession for a multitude of factors our coaches cannot control. They don’t set the game schedule. They can’t prevent injuries or behavior issues. Most of the time they don’t even control when practices are scheduled.
But here’s the thing — no job has perfect hours, and every employer expects their employees to be present when the job requires them to work. And when I remember this, I’m on my way back to reality.
Would my husband rather stay up late breaking down film instead of watching our favorite show together?
Is practice planning really more important than helping me when I’m just as exhausted as he is?
Does my husband prefer disciplining a player with a bad attitude to date night?
The answer to all these questions (plus dozens more) is “NOPE!” and when I can push past fatigue, I know it is true.
So, what is the secret to pushing past mental exhaustion? It takes discipline, but I’ve learned that the easiest way to correct my perspective when it starts to skew is to watch and listen.
When that player has a huge game and hugs my coach with tears in his eyes, or I hear the team coaching each other up, using phrases I’ve heard my husband say for years, it reminds me that football takes more time and effort than other jobs because it’s about way more than the game.
While my husband is not choosing football over me, he is choosing to invest in the future. He knows that sometimes young men need extra time and attention and that some interruptions are opportunities to influence a player’s life off the field. These moments are important, and they aren’t planned.
Hang in there; we’re almost to the end. Those frigid Friday nights will be behind us in no time. In the meantime, see if you can find the ways your husband’s investment is impacting his players. I promise it’s there.