You see, my husband is a high school football coach, and he’s been married to the game for a really, really, long time. They were a thing long before he and I were a thing. And when we started dating, I had to come to terms with the rules of engagement.
I didn’t know Coach’s role would change unexpectedly and shake up our lives drastically. But some of you had experienced that before.
I didn’t know that we would watch each sport shut down, one-by-one. But even when the stadiums emptied, there you were.
Some lost seasons. Some lost jobs. Many wrestled with their mental health and moves and the new normal. But we didn’t face these things alone. But we figured it out together.
Our family has moved frequently enough that our kids voluntarily keep a roll of duct tape in their assigned room colors on hand “just in case” we get the itch to move them again. One wraps boxes in blue, the other green. This way the movers place items in the correct locations when we arrive at our new locations.
The other day as I was grabbing a few things from one of my favorite grocery stores I saw a familiar look on a woman who bumped into me as she was shopping. I smiled and asked if she needed help.
As tears filled her eyes she asked, “Is this the right store?” It turns out she’s new to town, recently moved from the east coast, and felt our community was a bit overwhelming.
When we don’t move frequently (or at all) we may not realize that in America things are different as we move from state to state. Brands change names even when they are made by the same manufacturer. It’s exhausting to decipher a store layout in every new store. But when you finally find “the right” place you start to feel at home.
That’s what we all want, isn’t it? We want our hearts to feel settled. We want to come home.
Part of feeling at home is loving where you live. It’s a blessing to live in a place that you can also love, even it’s for a short time. That’s what I love about Urbana Illinois. Our Illinois community amazing is because it is incredibly diverse, it’s one of my favorite things about my home.
The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Carle Hospital, and the surrounding farming communities comprise much of Champaign County. Because of this, we get the best of both worlds when it comes to accessibility and small town living.
Our diverse community brings boasts a huge variety of restaurants and grocery stores. You can walk down Green Street to grab shwarma, boba tea, and the most amazing fish tacos all within a few steps of each other. We also have the best farmer’s market in the state with local produce including peaches, strawberries, freshly butchered meats, and goat cheese used in Rick Bayless’s Chicago restaurant.
If the farmer’s market scene isn’t your thing have no fear, Lake in the Woods has boat rentals, hiking trails, and botanical gardens.
Besides the fabulous food, outside areas to explore, and the university to keep you entertained with athletics and cultural arts you’ll also find that Urbana, IL is an amazing town because of all the eclectic voices the community supports. Diversity in our area extends to The Women’s Business Council of Champaign County, Mentorship programs like cu1to1, and the Urbana and Champaign Park Districts which strive to present unique programming for every age group.
Are you moving to Central IL? Check out how Champaign/Urbana is featured over on our Community Resources page.
Do you have a community you would like to feature? Coaching families move frequently and we’re always eager to learn about cities and towns where we may need to purchase a home and plant roots. If you have a community, ministry, or business you would like to feature as part of our My Amazing Community series email firstname.lastname@example.org
Yes, football and being a football family requires physical demands and emotional commitments from everyone involved. There are so many lonely dinners and difficult bath times. There are so many rushed labor-day cookouts and daddy-less trick-or-treats. There are so many tears from kids who miss their daddies -- and occasionally from mamas missing them too. Because there may not be crying in baseball, but believe me, there is crying in football. A lot of crying.
But most of those tears are the good kind.
You do not have to do this coaches’ wife thing alone. There are many who have walked before you, and there are many who walk alongside your journey. Embrace your title; it’s part of your calling.
It may be bittersweet, but sometimes change opens up a whole new happiness for you that you weren’t anticipating.
He doesn’t have favorites. He’s not purposely or viciously not playing your kid. There’s more than just pure talent that goes into making that decision. Attitude and effort go a lot further than you think. He doesn’t have it out for your kid. He is simply trying to teach them there are consequences for actions and teamwork will always take them further in life than selfish ambition.
It’s the middle of the season.
The excitement and novelty of a new season and new team has died down. We’re not yet to the playoffs when the whole town is vibrating with pride and bleeding school colors. District games are underway and tensions are high with so many must-win games up ahead. Your husband’s hours are getting longer, if that’s even possible, and your schedule is filling up now that school is in full swing.
Your evenings consist of taking the biggest to soccer practice and the middle to piano just in time to turn around and head back to soccer practice to pick her up. Then, the baby is crying because apparently she can’t feed herself.
Some days, you manage to make it up to practice so the kids can see their dad, even if it’s only from a distance.
It’s the middle of the season.
Game nights are … difficult. The kids are exhausted from a full week of school. Whether they make it through the whole game is a crap shoot and even if they do, their little sleep deprived souls will be in shambles for the rest of the weekend. You’ll be the only one around to pick up the pieces.
It’s the middle of the season.
The weekend comes. You get the kids ready for all the things: Big Kid’s soccer game (which never fails to be the 8 o’clock game… who schedules this crap?), middle kid’s friend’s birthday party at 10. You know you said you’d help out at that church event, but you realize by noon everyone is DONE. With fingertips full of guilt, you text to let them know you won’t be able to make it. Stop with the guilt. You’re doing the best you can.
Your friend calls you about joining some girls for dinner tomorrow night, but you don’t have money for a babysitter (“Yes, he works Sundays, too”). And even if you did, you’re not sure you’d have the energy to put a bra on, much less makeup.
It’s the middle of the season.
Your husband comes home after all the kids are asleep and tells you about how the staff ate lunch at Pizza Hut and how the team had a ping pong tournament and he and his partner won. He tells you about kicking that one kid out of practice today and letting another cry on his shoulder about stuff that makes your stomach hurt.
Meanwhile, you tell him about how your middle child followed you around the house all the ding dang day and how the baby smeared poop EVERYWHERE and you didn’t throw up cleaning it. #winningatmotherhood. You feel a little silly telling him about your day and wonder silently if he really cares.
Y’all give each other a tight, lingering hug. Then sit down on the couch together, turn on ESPN, and see who falls asleep first.
It’s the middle of the season.
And you’re lonely.
You love this season. But you also feel like your life is put on hold until it’s over because you’re too busy being everything for everyone.
You need help. You need reinforcements. You need friendship and companionship and just to feel less alone.
Oh, mama. You’re not alone.
You. Are. Not. A. Lone.
Coaches wives everywhere are with you. They are cheering you on and standing with you in your loneliness. They feel it too.
It’s the middle of the season.
And you might feel forgotten. You might feel unseen or unimportant.
That coach, the one who is working so hard and so long, he knows what you’re doing behind the scenes. He might not say it loud enough but he sees you and he’s thankful for you.
And those other coaches’ wives, the ones whose kids are a little bit older, the ones who sit by you on game nights and help you pack up all your stuff afterward, they know how hard and draining it is. They’ll be there for you if you’ll just ask.
And those players, the ones you cook for and clean for, the ones you loan your children’s father to for a few months to love on, they may not have the words to say it but they are so grateful for the way you’re sacrificing for them.
You, sweet mama in the middle of the season, are not forgotten.
By me, by your husband, or by your God.
It’s the middle of the season.
Hang on. We’re halfway there.
I sat in that gym while my husband played basketball with my favorite teenager for hours after practice. No talking, no crying, just turning all his emotions into jump shots and the world’s biggest hug when we took him home. That’s all he needed.
We don’t have to tell you that it’s been a crazy year and some months. We know you’ve been under a lot of stress. We’ve spent a lot of time praying for you. But, you know who has also been under a lot of stress? Your wife.
If you didn’t know it before, 2020 was the year that you confirmed you outkicked your punt coverage when you married your wife. We know you’re already aware of this, but we’re going to document it for posterity. While coaches have been figuring out how to maintain team morale over zoom, install new plays over Hudl and execute team practices without contact your wife has had a lot on her plate too.
Coaches’ wives have adjusted to daycares and schools shifting to online schooling while still maintaining jobs, ministries, and volunteer positions. More than that, wives have mourned the loss of seasons, jobs, family, and friends with you.
Coach, we know you are always grateful for your wife. But some years it’s nice to pause and really say thank you. As we start to see signs of “normal life” returning and we all exhale in relief, we want to encourage you to say thank you before the season’s craziness requires you to dive back in full force. (We know you have a lot of catching up to do!)
We’re making things really easy for you coach! We’ve gathered all our best suggestions into one post.
Gift Suggestions for the Coach’s Wife Who Deserves a Huge Thank You
This year we’re getting very specific with suggestions for wives you can use for Mother’s Day, Anniversaries, and birthdays. You may want to bookmark this one!
The Gift of Music and Podcasts
There are some pretty awesome podcasts out there designed specifically to encourage your wife. The Coach’s Wife Podcast is a favorite if you’re curious. But in addition to podcasts when you have a Spotify Premium membership you give the gift of gab and tunes on the go without taking up your phone data. (For $2 more a month you and your wife can both enjoy memberships!)
Get Away or StayCation for Real
We know travel is complicated right now, but if you can find an Airbnb near a spa your wife would love the time away with your undivided attention.
If you can’t find a sitter for the kids or prefer to invest in something for your backyard there’s nothing wrong with a staycation. However, make sure your staycation also includes eating out or GrubHub delivery!
Tips for a Great Staycation:
- No smartphone
- No email
- No working from home
- No cooking
- No cleaning
- No laundry
Consider these Items for a Backyard Staycation that Lasts all Summer:
- Hang in the backyard and read in a free-standing hammock.
- We also love this outdoor futon for two.
- Make s’mores in a firepit.
- Create outdoor seating for evenings with outdoor string lights.
Clothing and Jewelry Are Always a Winner
Over in the Friday Night Wives Marketplace, we also have the opportunity for you to support other coaches’ wives and small business owners. Check out Celia Bella Designs for some jewelry in your team colors. If your wife likes to work out Caylar Harper sells Zyia activewear which is super comfortable and very well made.
As you’re browsing the FNW Marketplace you’ll notice there’s a lot of opportunities for your wife to pamper herself! Whether your wife loves to dive into a new book or likes to pamper herself with spa products you will find a gift for your wife.
Are you on the move? Check out Lavender and Lemonade Design Co. Haylee Pitts custom home decor is beautiful. We are partial to the His Mercies Are New Every Morning sign for this season. But if your wife can always choose her own sign. Haylee also offers gift cards.
Maybe this move has sent your wife into a season of feeling a little lost? Gift her a session with Beverly Phillip. Sometimes the best thing a coach’s wife needs to hear is that her husband believes in her and is cheering her on in the middle of the unknown.
Well, Coach, we hope we’ve given you a few suggestions. We encourage you to bookmark the Friday Night Wives Marketplace and Shop and check frequently because we are always adding new items to both spaces!
Remember you have one more day to order the Summer Bleacher Box!
Resist the urge to fill every moment of dead week with picture perfect memories. Yes, these are the days that we cherish with Coach, but over planning can make dead week a chore.
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 gender disappointment? We were desperately wanting a boy for so many reasons – I’m a tomboy, I think bows are incredibly ugly, hubby wanted a boy that he could grow up and play football with and coach him, I wanted a mother/son relationship. I thought that once the baby got here, the disappointment of having a girl would go away. It hasn’t and I’m still struggling with having a girl. It’s just not something I ever pictured or wanted. I sincerely always thought we were meant to be boy parents that the thought never crossed my mind we’d be destined for something else. God clearly has jokes. Have any of you ever experienced this disappointment?
I love my daughter but bows are ugly
Answers From Veteran Coaches Wives
My sweet coach was so worried; he’s the youngest of three boys and 110% male. When God gave us a beautiful red-headed, sassy girl for our firstborn, my coach was like, “What if she likes the violin and stuff…” I quickly responded – “Well I am not sure how she would fall in love with the violin in this house -but if she does, I bet you love the violin too.”
Here’s what I can tell you – She is a gift. She will humble both of you. You will marvel at her – no matter who she becomes.
Our little princess got on base more often because she had been hit by the pitch, was a tenacious point guard, a fearless base on the varsity cheer squad, and incredibly impatient when the other girls didn’t understand the rules of whatever game for which she was cheering. Her daddy could hardly ever say no to her and along with her excellent athletic ability, she was able to apply lipstick better than I could by the time she was two. God gave her to you; you will have the time of your life finding out why.
I avoided pink for years with my favorite redhead. I dressed her in baseball outfits, covered the snaps and hats with sunflowers or bows. She loved it, and we adored our ultra-competitive, never-say-lose, sassy, but very caring, fire-cracker.
Lisa Witcher aka Mamawitch
You are not alone and I applaud you for asking this very brave question. Stepping into parenthood is easier for some than others. Having a baby rocked my world and I’m not sure if the gender would have mattered or not. Some people take a while to fall in love with their kids. I like mine way better now that they are big kids instead of babies. I suspect you will like yours more and more as she grows up, whether she ends up being a girly girl or tomboy. I got one of each and watching them grow up eventually made me change and love them more than I believed even though I am not naturally “bent” as a Mom. Hoping great surprises come from the choice God made on your behalf.
He knows what He’s doing.
Children are one of the last mysteries on this planet. Rarely do we raise a child and find that our parenting expectations come true. I’ve never met a parent who says “Oh yes, my kid turned out exactly how I dreamed they would.” In fact, my guess is that if you would think back on your own childhood you’d remember resisting your parent’s helpful directions as you prepared for important life milestones.
We have two sons and even though everyone on both sides of our family determined before their births that they would play football both have actively refused to engage in the sport. Our boys are fun, funny, and exasperating. Just as teenage boys should be, and yet neither will follow in their father’s footsteps.
We love them dearly. Now that they are more independent we also like them. It’s possible you will find you enjoy your daughter more as her personality develops. My encouragement is that you spend each day focusing on that day. There will be many moments you look back on and realize they passed by too quickly.
God has entrusted you with an amazing gift. Enjoy her. She will give you many moments of laughter and tears. Every child does. 😉 PS. I’m linking this wonderful post in case you haven’t had a chance to read it yet. I hope you’ll read “My Football Coach Husband Has Three Daughters—And What a Sweet Gift”
Hang in there,
“I don’t want you to help me! NO! NO! Don’t touch it!” she screamed as she aggressively jammed the “outie” part of the zipper against the “innie” part of the zipper over and over and over again to no avail.
“Charlee, we have to go. Let’s make a good choice. Would you rather get frustrated and cry or just ask Mommy for help?”
No response as she repeatedly attempted to “DO IT ALL BY MYSEE–EE–LLLL–FF!”
Five minutes later I gathered her limp body off of the living room floor, exhausted from the sobs and the tireless slamming of the jacket against the wall. She had clearly chosen to “get frustrated and cry” as opposed to the alternative, “ask for help.”
Sadly, she gets this from her mother.
I recalled a few months earlier when I had also had my very own “zipper moment.” I had been checking my watch every 38 seconds to see if Clark’s practice was over yet only to realize he wouldn’t be home for 4 hours and 38, no, 37 minutes. Will we all still be alive by then? I could make no such promise. Hattie was 5-months-old and Charlee was 22-months-old and I was done. Mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually DONE.
Charlee was in her room throwing a fit while I sat on the foot of the guest bed holding the littlest one. She was crying, yet again. I was bouncing up and down like a rabbit on 5-Hour-Energy, trying breathlessly to control my aggression, hoping not to approach the threshold for Shaken Baby Syndrome. As I bounced, I remember audibly repeating, “Please. Stop. Crying. Please. Stop. Crying.” Maybe one out of the three of us would listen.
Then my phone rang. It was Clark.
“Hey Babe, I’m gonna be late today.”
I couldn’t get a word out of my throat. I felt a huge knot form and before I could stop he could hear the sobs from the other end of the line. “O…. kay….”
“Has it been a bad day?”
Um. No. It’s been fan-freakin-tastic. Can you hear the two of them? They’re screaming because we’re all having so much fun playing Candy Land and creating educational crafts.
“Call your mom. Tell her to come over. She would love to help you.”
“No seriously. Call her. I’ll leave as soon as I can.”
“O… kay… Bye.”
Ten minutes later my phone rang. This time it was my mom.
“Hey, how ya doing? Clark called and said you might want some help. I’m on my way over right now.”
My husband knows me way too well. He knows my independent, I-CAN-DO-IT-ALL-BY-MYSELF heart would never surrender and actually ask for help. I don’t need help. I am perfectly capable of handling this motherhood thing on my own, thank you very much. I got myself into this gig and I can get myself through it with my teeth gritted and my fists clenched.
I knew my resistance had a lot more to do with pride than I cared to admit. God began to show me that asking for help isn’t a show of weakness but in fact the ultimate sign of strength and humility, the admission that I am not God and I was not created to do this alone.
It’s okay to need help. It’s okay to admit that today has sucked. Hard. It’s okay to need a second to come up for air every now and then. And it’s even okay to call your mom to rescue you… when you’re a grown woman.
In Exodus 17, Moses has just brought the Israelites out of Egypt. But while traveling they are attacked by the Amalekites and forced into battle. Moses, in his old age, heads to the top of the hill with Aaron and Hur while Joshua chooses the strongest men to go down to the battlefield.
Moses raises his staff as his men fight in an appeal to God for help and enablement. “As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning” (Ex. 17:11). Moses is old and tired. An entire battle is a long time to keep your hands raised up in the air. Thankfully, he has help. Verse 12 says, “When Moses’ hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up — one on one side, one on the other — so that his hands remained steady till sunset.”
I also feel old and tired most days. I also feel like there is a battle raging under my roof most days. And I also, like Moses, can see a difference in the outcome of my battle when I hold up my hands in surrender, in an admission that I can’t do this on my own. Sadly, my arms get tired pretty quickly.
God knew they would. He didn’t create me or Moses or you to hold up our hands on our own. He never expected us to fight our battles in isolation.
But I am not Moses. And I lack the humility to admit that I need someone else to bring me a rock to sit on or someone to prop up my hands. So I just watch my army go down in flames because I am too prideful to admit that I need reinforcements.
I need encouragement.
I need validation.
I need coffee.
I need help.
I have plenty of Aarons and Hurs that are willing to prop up my hands and pull up a rock. And so do you.
It’s just a matter of asking.
It seems like an eternity right now, but they will one day not cry when coach is actually around. They will go to him when he walks through the door, instead of clinging to you.
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.
I can hear my voice calling out to my son playing in the summer heat in the backyard way past his bedtime.
I can feel the rush of excitement when my stepson and stepdaughter run up the brick steps, fling open the front door at Thanksgiving Break, and call out to us, “we’re home!”
And I know because my family will feel at home here, that I will be just fine starting over too.
Note to the Reader: To read the first part of Crystal’s story read I Married a Black Coach; This is My Story
As coach wives, we support our Coach through the plethora of emotions that come along with coaching. We listen when he comes home at an ungodly hour venting about a frustrating practice. We are a springboard for new ideas on drills or plays. We console him after a tough loss.
We put Coach in check when he needs a dose of reality, and we get the privilege of sharing with him the many, many joys of this profession. The words and actions that I provide for my coach in most situations are, I am guessing, similar to those that every other coach wife presents to her over-worked sweetheart. However, in some situations, I have found myself at a loss of how to provide my Black Coach with the support he needs, specifically where jobs are concerned.
Throughout our journey together in coaching (he’s been in the game for a while but I’m a new-ish coach wife), there have been a few, distinct times when I could clearly see that Coach needed support from me, but I just did not know what to say or do.
What am I supposed to say when he tells me that we can’t take that job because that community isn’t accepting of interracial relationships? Or, that he isn’t even sending in his resume to certain places because he has heard that Black coaches don’t get a fair shakedown there when it comes to upward mobility?
And, let me be clear, it’s not like he was trying to replace Dabo or Saban, ya’ll. We are talking about logical, practical, qualified career choices that he was opting out of simply because of the color of his skin.
What do I say to that?
How do I respond?
Do I encourage him to ignore the prejudice and go hard after his dreams?
Or do I listen to and trust in his wisdom where racial issues are concerned?
(After all, as a white woman, my knowledge and experience on this topic are quite limited).
I have been stunned, and frustrated, and angered, and hurt watching my Coach navigate through this bigotry that, I am guessing, white coaches do not have to experience because, you know…privilege. There is really no other way to describe it.
As always, I am speaking solely from my own experiences and observations, nothing else. I am not claiming that my experiences are true for all, but they are definitely true for me and my Coach. Supporting my husband is part of what I am called to do as his wife and as his partner. For me, learning to support him through racial issues that are intertwined with his passion, his mission, and his calling is one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done.
When I put up the 2021 calendar, I craved the normal. I hopefully added remaining basketball games and projected track meet dates. In pencil, I wrote in gymnastics meets and volleyball games. I tentatively scribbled in some vacation possibilities with fingers crossed. I wanted our usual back and yet, I knew, I would eventually yearn for the unusual.
But as I begin to break down and cry out to my God, I’m reminded of this truth: I am not alone.
Don’t let anyone give you grief for doing what’s best for you.