“Do I need to tell your dad about this?”
The teacher relaying the story said that as soon as the word dad was invoked, our sweet son’s shoulders slumped. That question was a reminder that while the rest of his classmates might get away with acting out near the end of the school year, others hold our son to a different standard.
I held my breath for a few days waiting for an email from the teacher. When it didn’t arrive, I asked what had happened and learned the correction was simply a reminder to our son that he didn’t have the option to take a zero for the day in the gym and chill with his friends. The teacher expected our son to change into his gym uniform and walk laps around the track and when he tried to join his classmates in their tiny rebellion, the teacher used the one card he still had in his back pocket.
This was the football coach’s kid.
Life under a microscope is tough, and it is not lost on me that while my husband chose this career our children did not. They are along for the ride, and whether they like it or not, our sons represent their father wherever they go. In 6th grade, upon entering a new school, the school tour revealed my son was surrounded by football fans once again. The counselor toured us around the hallways and with each introduction she excitedly said, “This is our new coach’s son.” Our son calmly put out his hand for a firm handshake (just as his Daddy taught him) and to each new person said, “Hello, my name is Elijah.”
Without fail the next question was one about the team.
I don’t blame people for misreading the situation. It’s hard to understand that while my sons’ favorite person is their dad, their least favorite thing to tell people is that their dad is a football coach. There is a simple reason for their resistance. Once they tell people who their dad is, they become “the coach’s kid.”
Don’t get me wrong. There are perks to being a coach’s kid. Free concessions, the run of the stadium, getting out of school early on Fridays to ride the bus with the team, hotel stays, eating at a buffet, a lot of fun babysitters, running around on the practice field playing with the equipment and so much more.
But there are also things my sons see as negatives. They don’t get to hide in a crowd as easily and their teachers all know who they are before they walk into the room. They are held to a higher standard than their peers even when out at recess.
But honestly, I’m okay with this!
It takes a village to raise kids well, and I am around my sons less than anyone these days. A few minutes in the morning, a few hours in the afternoon, and these are always the times they are exhausted and out of words. Still, I think it’s important for coach’s kids to have the opportunity to have times away from the microscope. I don’t have a perfect solution to deal with life under a microscope, but I’ve figured out a few things that might be helpful.
Speak Up. I can’t remember the last time we met someone who didn’t ask when the boys will start playing football. The truth is, they aren’t interested in playing. I’m the one that explains this because when they respond for themselves, people push back. I’ve learned that when I gently remind the well-meaning person that we are proud of our sons for the men they are becoming and support them as they pursue their interests, this shifts the conversation.
Make sure your home is always a space where your kids can express themselves. Our sons used to love everything about football. But as they’ve gotten older, the footballs have been replaced with soccer balls, basketballs, Legos, and Nerf guns. They have decorated their rooms to their preferences. This might seem obvious, but a few years ago one of our sons was hiding a poster of his favorite Pokémon characters under a photo of the football team because he thought we would be mad.
Create space for non-football activities. My husband takes our boys camping every summer and he plays video games with them when they ask. I carve out time once a month for a date with each kid. We also sign them up for classes and camps that align with their interests.
There are so many amazing things about the coaching life. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. But, as our sons get older, I’m learning to create space for them to flourish, and right now that means working a little harder at the “non-coaching” areas of life.