The coaching life is such an interesting ride. And “ride” is exactly the right description. Over all these years we have found ourselves headed uphill, downhill, and everywhere in between.
We can be cruising along thinking we are just fine when we hit a pothole (read: major injury, unexpected loss, parent concern) midseason.
We will be struggling up a dark hill when all of a sudden the team busts out a come-from-behind victory or unanticipated post-season run and the sun comes up over the top.
It is a strange and unpredictable journey and it can dictate far more of our life than we would like sometimes.
To that end, one of the earliest survival lessons you learn as a coaching family is how to continue to function in the middle of a lifestyle that tries to upend your emotions on a weekly, if not daily, basis. As coaches' wives we watch as our men ride the waves of their career up and down, season after season, year after year.
And my sister, here’s what I want to tell you…
If you ride in that same boat with your coach constantly, all you are going to do is end up nauseous.
Last year we moved to a new school with a brand spankin’ new set of starters on both offense and defense. We were dedicated but we were green and consequently, we got our proverbial hiney handed to us more than a couple of times.
On one of these unspectacular occasions we were up against a school who finished the season as state semifinalists. They also have an unbelievable 60+ home game winning streak. The night was cold and windy and we lost. By a lot. It was awful.
I stood there after the game as we all do, watching young man after young man pass in silence. Coaches with their heads bowed, managers diligently taking care of the details in the middle of the aftermath. It was during this moment that one of our very kind parents came up to me, placed her hand on my shoulder and said gently, “How are you doing dear?”
I looked at her, trying to figure out if I should be honest, and then with the biggest grin and the quietest voice I could muster I said, “I’m so sorry, but I’m doing great!”
You see, on the same day when my husband lost by one of the biggest margins in school history, I published my first book. A labor of love long in the making, I had finally accomplished one of my bucket list level dreams and I was literally giddy inside while the mourning took place all around me. It was the strangest feeling to be sad for my coach but happy for myself. But, that is EXACTLY what we have to be able to do if we want to survive in this very strange world of sports.
That Friday night was one of the most extreme examples I have ever experienced but the same principle holds true in the everyday flow of coaching.
When coach loses a big game, does not get the job he wants, or visits his third starter who is out with a season-ending injury, I am going to be sad for him. And I’m going to be sad with him.
But what I am not going to do is shut down my life and let the ride of coaching dictate my emotional state completely. Because that is not good for anyone. It’s not good for me. It’s not good for my kids. And believe it or not, it’s not good for coach.
There is a thin line that exists between empathy and codependency and we are wise to watch diligently that we don’t cross over.
My dear coaches’ wives, if we have any hope of maintaining our sanity, finding our voices, reaching our potential, and achieving our goals, we cannot let the coaching life do all the talking.
If we want to enjoy the successes of our children, coexist with the normal flow of humanity, and enjoy the simple pleasures that everyday life can bring, we must leave room in our hearts for a peaceful coexistence between the coaching life … and the rest of life.
A few examples…
When we are sad about a losing season and happy about our marriage.
When a key player gets injured and we still enjoy our kid’s t-ball game.
When we lose a parent mid-season and still find a way to enjoy the victory on Friday night.
When Coach is rocked by a loss and we still go to the gym the next day for some self-care. Guilt free.
In short, if coaching isn’t matching life or life isn’t matching coaching we don’t have to pick. We can choose both.
Our hearts are not limited to the experience of one emotion at a time and our minds are not confined to a single all-encompassing focus. We are coaches’ wives for heaven’s sake! We are multi-tasking, people loving, husband comforting, stinky player patting, food for the masses making, called to this weird little life warriors.
There are beauty and pain to be found in almost every part of the journey and we are blessed if we can acknowledge and experience them both. Let’s do our best to enjoy the ride!