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Lessons Learned from a Transient Coach’s Wife

I have always found it frustrating to not get to where I want to be, with new friends, with the new house, in the new community, immediately. I also fall victim to always comparing my brand new beginning to the well developed ending that just occurred. I’ve learned that I need to be patient and realistic. It takes time to get where I would like to be, usually years.

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dear head coach's wife this is my prayer for you

Dear Head Coach’s Wife Here’s My Prayer For You

Dear Head Coach’s Wife,

This fall will be the first time in almost a decade that my “title” is coach’s wife rather than head coach’s wife, and I’m so relieved. As our new reality began to take shape, I found myself exhaling deeply for the first time in a long time. Even my parents observed that after spending a few hours with my husband, they don’t remember a time when they’ve seen him smile so much or look so relaxed. And while saying this out loud makes me chuckle, it also reminds me that you, head coach’s wife, need my prayer and support.

Don’t get me wrong. My husband was an excellent head coach for many years. He was successful on the field, and he faced challenges. But, most importantly, he understands the opportunity a coach has to develop men through sports. He understands athletics is an avenue to sharpen future amazing husbands, employees, and citizens through the ministry of football. When he coached at the college level, he spent hours pouring into his staff, seeking to develop their leadership skills and football knowledge.

As the head coach, he also faced every criticism from the public, administration, staff, and team. As the head coach, he understood he was associated with every negative situation, whether he was present or completely unaware of the details.

I’ve often said that you have to be slightly insane to place your family’s financial stability in the hands of 16–21-year-old men committing to do the right thing at the right time 365 days a week for four years. Whether you’re coaching high school or college ball, you know you’re setting yourself up for failure with those odds! And really, why should we expect athletes to behave better than the adults in the room? (But that’s a question to answer in a different post 😉)

Today dear head coach’s wife, I’m writing to you. I want you to know that I understand your burden as one who has walked years in your shoes.

  • I know how lonely it is to invite your staff wives to your home, only to learn later they prefer to hang out together without you.
  • I know how difficult it is to bite your tongue as you hear how unfair your husband’s decision to require the coaching staff to work is, even though he’s worked longer hours than anyone else on staff.
  • I understand how challenging it is to walk the line of representing your husband and team well while also pursuing your own dreams and passions.
  • I know what it’s like to feel the loss of staff leaving because they insist you aren’t treating them as well as they deserve even though you know your husband is bending over backward to do everything he possibly can to make that coach (and his wife) as welcome as possible.

But here’s the thing head coach’s wife, for every challenging situation I understand, there are ten amazing that flood my mind. Coaching is a ministry that includes a constant rotation of new people to serve. This means that our mission field will change every year whether we move on or our entire staff remains the same.

With that in mind, my prayer for you this year is specific. I hope you’ll find it applicable.

Father God,

We lift up our head coaching families this season. As we enter a new (and likely uncertain) season, we will need to establish what “normal” looks like in a post-pandemic world. This is a challenge for every leader. However, I believe our head coaches are facing a particular burden this year. God, please give them your compassion and empathy for their athletes this year. Help them discern when to ask for more and understand their athletes are truly giving everything they can on a particular day.

God, we know as our coaches will be on the field, coaches’ wives will strive (and struggle) to support their husbands, children, and juggling everyday life. So we pray specifically for our head coaches’ wives today.

Every coach’s wife needs your shoulder to lean on, but today I’m asking that you give head coaches’ wives an extra dose of encouragement this season. Please provide them with a cheerleader in their community who they can lean on in difficult moments. Please help them to walk the tightrope of public and private lives in their communities well. Finally, God, I ask that you give our head coaches’ wives ideas on deepening family bonds within the staff best.

We pray that our head coaches’ wives won’t feel they need to put their passions, dreams, and desires on hold this year. Instead, we ask that you show them how they can thrive in their callings in partnership with you.

Thank you for loving our head coaching families. Remind those of us on staff with head coaches and head coaches’ wives who seek to serve us that we are likely being protected from more conflict than we realize. Please help us to be grateful even in frustrating moments and to remember the bigger picture.

Coaching is an amazing opportunity to reflect your love and character. Help us all to do so to the best of our ability.

Dear Veteran's Coach's Wive Series

Dear Veteran Coach’s Wife: I feel like I don’t have control over my life

 It’s Monday, and we’re answering another question in our Veteran Coach’s Wife series.

QUESTION FROM NEWBIE WIFE

How do you deal with feeling like your life isn’t your own? I feel like my life is dictated by my husband’s and I have no control. I know I’m supposed to say God is in control no matter what, but I’ve lost my sense of self & identity because even the decisions I make to invest in myself have to be worked around my husband’s schedule.

ANSWERS FROM VETERAN COACHES WIVES

Dear Katie,

The first step is to stop fighting it. Accepting the fact that your life isn’t your own makes it so much easier to move forward, because then you can start to work with it instead of against it. I’ve been there. I wasted so much of my time and energy obsessing over the fact that what I needed or what was important to me was last place for every aspect of my life. It turned into resentment and that was exhausting. I had realized that I slowly chipped away at my things (and therefore my identity), because it was frustrating to hear that either I would have to do it alone or I would have to get a babysitter. I started always planning on having to take care of the house and kid stuff on my own. If coach could help, it felt like a bonus (and a quick vacation.) Then, I found things that were non-threatening to the schedule and I could do whenever I could fit in, like an at-home workout or church group where there was childcare. When I started doing things that might compete with his schedule, coach got involved. There were so many times when I committed to something and okayed with coach in terms of his schedule, only for a last-minute change to occur. Most of the time, before he even clued me in to the issues, he has found a babysitter, a friend, or a family member to watch the kids so I could still do my thing (and the stress of figuring it out was on him, not me). God is in control, but I can promise you that He doesn’t want you to be miserable. For me, I can now see that God had allowed my identity to be stripped, so I could build it back up better and for Him. It’s never going to be headache-free, but you have to find the things that are worth the headache and do them when you can!

Jess Gilardi

 

Dear Katie, 

Try finding something that is just for you; something that is your own that you can separate from your husband and his career that gives you value. We are called to be partners for our husbands, but not to be a servant or to forget ourselves for him. And remember, it isn’t a one-way street…he is your partner, too. Support for a new endeavor for you may look a little different coming from Coach than you expect, but it needs to happen. When he fell in love with you you weren’t a coach wife; you were YOU. It’s important that you stay in touch with YOU so that your marriage stays healthy and resentment doesn’t build up toward Coach. As with everything, pray! Tell God how you feel and try praying for clear answers and a renewal of spirit. You are fearfully and wonderfully made in HIS image, sis. 

Best of luck! 

 

 

 

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don't devalue the sidelines

Don’t Devalue the Sidelines

Our family is in another season of newness. To start, we’re closing the door on middle school, and come fall; we will have two high schoolers in the same building as their father. We’ve also moved again. This is our third home in this same town. We have moved a total of 2 miles distance-wise more than doubling our square footage with each move, but this one brings significant change. We are homeowners again after a long stint. These moments of newness are layered on top of the world emerging from months of mandated isolation. I’m proud of our sons. At 14 and 16, for the most part, they are handling all the changes with ease. But then again, they’re coaches’ kids, and for them, change is as much a part of life’s routine as buying new clothes when they’ve outgrown their favorite outfits.

One of the interesting things I’ve learned about seasons of change is that while most people resist them, many opportunities are built into each season. Seasons of change demand a pause so we can regroup before forging ahead on a new course. By default, we spend time on the sidelines strengthening our plays, resting for a moment while others are on the field. We observe what we’re up against, and (as my husband is known to say) we make game time decisions on our next moves.

As we embrace the moments of change in front of us, it’s possible new opportunities we hadn’t previously considered will arise. We have the choice to lean into our strengths and gifts in new ways. In these moments, we can embrace how God may be calling us to partner with him, or we can run. One of my favorite podcasters, Emily P. Freeman, recently addressed her response in these situations:

“When hints of my own potential show up in me, I haven’t always welcomed it, but I’m starting to. And in recent years, I’ve done it more and more. And I have to tell you, it feels like waking up.”

In Episode 180 of The Next Right Thing Podcast, Emily goes on to say, “I hope we can all benefit from this reminder to pay attention to places where we’re afraid of our own potential and also to pay attention to our own voice, to how the spirit of God might want to move within and around us.”

As I listened to Emily’s well-timed encouragement, I was grateful for these few moments, and then a sentence stopped me in my tracks. “Second, there’s still blessing, giftedness, leadership, and strength all the way in the back, all the way on the sidelines and in the shadows.

There’s still blessing all the way on the sidelines and in the shadows? Frustration welled up as I pondered how Emily was devaluing the sidelines. Didn’t she understand all the work that occurs on the sidelines? Doesn’t Emily know how intense the sidelines of a game can be when coaches are working coach players to step into their full potential?

And that’s when I realized that Emily was referencing the sidelines as if we stand on the line alone. But here’s the thing, my friend, as a coach’s wife, what we take for granted isn’t naturally understood by the rest of the crowd. While many miss the work that happens on the sidelines, we know the truth. The secret to a team’s success often lies in how responsive they are to the necessary adjustments on the sideline’s benches.

When an athlete determines they will move in their own strength, gifts, talents, and timing, the chances of success for the team reduce drastically. However, when someone remains coachable on the sidelines and uses that time to study, rest, stretch, and ready their body for the moment, they are called upon to step onto the field, the whole team improves regardless of the scoreboard at the end of the game.

No one stands on the sidelines alone, and it’s vital for personal growth that we don’t devalue the opportunities that await us as we regroup.

You may not be in the same season of newness as our family. However, it’s difficult to deny that we’re all feeling our way through some sort of new normal right now. Life is going to look different in the months to come. We’ve been impacted by what we have seen, heard, read, and felt the past year. And that is a good thing.

As we’re released from the sidelines this summer, and into the fall, we will notice that some of our teammates have left the field never to return. The challenge was too much, or God has called them to pursue a different path. Some are running onto the field refreshed and ready to go. Others are looking for ways to linger a little longer on the sidelines.

You may discover that you align with new teammates now. Whichever camp you’re in, don’t devalue the time spent on the sidelines. The work put in learning, the time resting and re-evaluating goals was necessary and important. You learned significant lessons for a reason. Now it’s time to put your lessons into action. Step into your sweet spot and thrive. Your contribution matters and we’re here cheering you on when you need the extra encouragement. That’s what teammates do. 

Dear Veteran's Coach's Wive Series

Dear Veteran Coach’s Wife: How Do You Deal with Head Coach’s Wife Conflict?

It’s Monday, which means we’re answering another question in our Veteran Coach’s Wife series.

 

QUESTION FROM NEWBIE WIFE

Dear Veteran Coach’s Wife,

How do you deal with a head coach’s wife that is trying to be a wife “leader” but is severely unfair? She and her children are allowed at practices/events but other wives aren’t informed of these opportunities. Parking passes, reserved seatings, event passes, wives get-togethers are all chosen by her and not provided for everyone. Some opportunities are even offered to her friends and family instead of staff wives. What do you do when the head coach’s wife is nice to your face and then talks poorly about you behind your back? Help!

Signed,

Head Coach’s Wife Conflict

ANSWERS FROM VETERAN COACHES WIVEs

Dear Head Coach’s Wife Conflict,

First, let me offer my sincerest apologies to you. I don’t have to imagine how you feel. I have been there. Here are some suggestions for dealing with this:

First, stay calm; easier said than done.

When things happen, take 30 seconds to collect, process, and think; this will keep you from retaliating or saying something you don’t mean at the moment. You are going to have to make a choice here: do you confront the head coach’s wife or not?

Second, you need to discuss this with your husband. If he is adamant that you don’t confront her; respect his decision. I would make it clear that he is expected to help you with parking passes, reserved seating details, and other things related to going to games. It will be hard to go that road (I have done it before with my mother), but I imagine you’re not the only one left out in the cold. Do your best to be positive; take care of your family, your husband’s players, and find a friend outside the wives group that loves your team. When my mother and I were in this situation, we chose not to confront the other wife. My mother explained to me that things would not change, and probably get worse, especially for my dad.

At the time, I wanted my mom and me to stand up for ourselves, but looking back now with more years under my belt, she was right. Whatever you decide, you need to have full support from your husband. That is the relationship you need to protect. 

 

Sincerely, 

Stephanie Windon

 

Dear Head Coach’s Wife Conflict,

Eek, this is a tough one. There are difficult people in every area of life but, when it’s in the coaching sphere it seems extra hard because we’re all supposed to be on the same team, right?! We’ve been at several different schools, some with super supportive wives and some with less-than-supportive. Sadly, I have not found either to change. They have remained in either the supportive or the unsupportive category throughout our time despite efforts to connect, kindness, etc. All that to say, we are called to our own integrity, regardless of how someone else acts.

I’m so bummed that you aren’t getting those choices that you mentioned. If there are wives who are trustworthy, cling to them, but don’t engage in “common enemy intimacy” (kudos to Brene Brown for the term). Y’all can be friends and support one another without bonding over your dislike of her leadership. Make the best of the situation as is and, if anything holds true in coaching, it will change at some point!

Signed,

Sometimes People Disappoint Us

Dear New Wife Who Touched My Heart

Dear New Wife Who Touched My Heart

Dear New Wife Who Touched My Heart,

As a coach’s wife in an interracial marriage who will celebrate my twentieth anniversary this summer, I wanted to let you know how much I’ve appreciated your boldness over the past few months. I’m not sure you realize how brave you are, but as someone who has spent a few decades hearing her marriage is something God frowns on simply because of the color of my skin, well, I think you’re courageous.

I’m not the only one. I happen to have the unique position of seeing the analytics for the Friday Night Wives website and social media, and your blog posts are some of the most viewed, even if they don’t seem to receive a lot of public interaction.

Crystal, you said the quiet parts out loud. But, then again, it seems that you’ve had quite the unwelcoming start to your young marriage. I’m sorry for that. I wish I could stay things will get easier; however, you are facing situations that haven’t changed in at least two decades.

Just like you, I can only share my experiences. I’ve been around the football world a little longer than you, so I thought it might be helpful to let you know that you are seen and heard. My heart broke as you shared with the world what I’ve known for two decades. Interracial couples are prevented from pursuing jobs in certain communities because the towns aren’t accepting of a couple’s love.

The issue for black coaches runs much deeper than who they choose to marry. The most difficult part is that much of this could change if coaches treated each other with the same respect they hope to receive from others.

Unequal Hiring Practices

As a head football coach at the college level, I’ve stood next to my husband and heard every rationale as to why white coaches were passed over for the positions my husband received.

  • The college needed to meet a diversity quota
  • The college thought minorities would stay longer with a black head coach
  • The college was looking to diversify the campus as part of a long-term plan
  • The white coach would have been hired if they applied but knew the college wanted to look at minorities, so they didn’t apply

Every statement assumed my husband received his job because of the color of his skin. They ignored his resume, experience, and football knowledge. Yet those same coaches have no problem acknowledging they received most of their coaching jobs because of who they knew and the people who hired them when they were promoted.

I’ve often wondered if these same men walk up to random white coaches and say things like, “Oh yeah, I was going to apply for that job, but I knew the school had a white hiring quota to meet.”

The intention may not be to imply that a black coach isn’t qualified for the job they have, but that is exactly what happens. It’s a bold assumption for someone to determine if they know a stranger’s resume or know they are a better interviewer and understand the school’s hiring needs!

And to be clear here, hiring quotas don’t actually exist. Only in the NFL are they required to interview minority coaches. Nowhere does it say anyone must employ anyone.

Pay Discrepancy

Every year USA Today releases the salaries for the head coaches for the NCAA Head Coaches. Here’s the list of NCAAF Coaches as of November 2020, and here’s the list of NCAA Basketball Coach Pay as of March 2021.

Of course, it’s challenging to have a conversation about fair pay when the head coaches’ percentage is so low. The Louisville Courier-Journal explains:

Of the 1,073 head coaches in NCAA sports at Power Five programs, only 79, or 7.4%, are Black.

Of the 65 Power Five schools, 15 do not employ a single Black head coach in any NCAA sport, though seven of those schools do have at least one other head coach of color.  

Safety When Traveling

For years we have had to remind our sons they don’t have to privilege of wearing their hoods up when they are walking outside regardless of how cold it is. We tell them they can’t touch items on store shelves they think are interesting or put their hands in their pockets when walking through a store.

Now, with a child preparing to drive, I find myself rehearsing an extensive list of warnings. “Remember, if you get pulled over, keep your hands visible at all times. Don’t open the car door, don’t make sudden movements, and always speak respectfully.” I try to speak in a calming tone because I don’t want to increase the already present fear.

But there’s another layer to the concern that I hold as a coach’s wife married to a black coach. Whether during the recruiting season or while in charge of a bus full of athletes, there have been times when I’ve found myself momentarily filled with anxiety. What if the wrong person is driving this week? What if Ordell pulls off at the wrong stop while recruiting? What if he booked a hotel in the wrong area?

These questions may seem silly however they started from a personal experience. An administrator of a previous college gave me a map before a road with a list of towns to avoid when traveling with my sons.

What Can We Do?

Crystal, I know that this post may affirm your experiences. But it could also leave you feeling hopeless if I don’t offer some suggestions on how to get through the difficult moments. Of course, nothing is foolproof, but I’ve found that the best thing I can do is listen. My husband has dealt with the challenges of life as a black man in America his entire life. As his partner, it’s my job to hear him and strive to see his side of a situation just like I want him to do for me.

Next, I spend a lot of time praying. God is the God of justice. In the book of Amos, God tells the Prophet that the Israelites are going to face divine intervention. God is bothered by the Israelites practice of religion without righteousness. By oppressing the poor and failing to practice justice, the Israelites were behaving unrighteously; justice was to be enacted as a core of God’s message in Amos’ prophetic teachings.

Amos Chapter 5 reveals this. A few of my favorite verses to pray are:

  • For the Lord says to the house of Israel: Seek me and live!
  • Those who turn justice into wormwood also throw righteousness to the ground.
  • 14-15. Pursue good and not evil so that you may live, and the Lord, the God of Armies, will be with you as you have claimed. Hate evil and love good; establish justice at the city gate.
  • But let justice flow like water, and righteousness, like an unfailing stream.

I stay connected to community that strives to value all coaches equally. I make sure my husband has the resources and community he needs. We can’t shoulder these things by ourselves. There are times when I send a voxer message to a girlfriend who understands my stress because she shares it. Find these friends and hold them close.

I’m grateful for your willingness to speak up. I hope you’ll keep sharing your story. Just know that as difficult as your walk is right now, these moments may lighten up and flare up again. There is a community of women who have been in your shoes. Our experiences vary, but our advice comes from the heart.

 

Check out these resources:

National Coalition of Minority Football Coaches

Minority Coaches Association

NCAA Leadership Collective

Minority Coaches Association of Georgia

Missouri Minority Coaches Association

 

Storms Came, Our House Collapsed—How I Built a Stronger Foundation

It was there, with my metaphorical house stripped to bare studs, that I realized I had built it with all the wrong things.

I started over with the basics, faith became the groundwork on which everything was rebuilt. Finding a church community and reading God’s Word was the first step.

From there, I began to realize how grace (grace for coach, this lifestyle, and most importantly myself) was necessary as the support beams. It allowed me to have the patience I needed to get through the day, the season, the storm.

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Great is Thy Faithfulness. Even When …

Great is thy faithfulness...even when I feel alone and unknown.

Great is thy faithfulness...even when the unwanted diagnosis appears.

Great is thy faithfulness...even when Coach’s contract is not renewed.

Great is thy faithfulness...even when there is no heartbeat.

Great is thy faithfulness...even when your closest friend is unfaithful.

Great is thy faithfulness...even when they curse your name from the sidelines.

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The Coaches' Wives Top Ten

Whatever conversation others may have with me in hopes I will share with my husband, will NEVER get to him! The coach’s spouse is often treated like a side door into the coach’s office. No, we don’t know what our husband is going to do about playing time. No, I don’t know our husband is going to handle your child missing practice. No, I don’t know why freshmen are playing more than the upperclassmen.

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moving family job decision placement

Unpopular Opinion: We Don’t Always Go Places Because God Led Us There

Just like our brother Jonah, we go places we're not supposed to go because we're human and want to do our own thing. Discernment and wisdom are of God, and when we feel anxious about a move, it can be fear of the unknown OR it can be divine insight.

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