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Learning How to Support My Black Coach Well

Learning How to Support My Black Coach Well

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. 

wedding vows for coaching couple wedding

When a Coach Gets Married, Here are What the Vows SHOULD Be

I, Mr. Coach, promise to:

Recognize that this woman is an actual superhero and treat her as such
When she is sad just hold her, don’t coach her
Make a valiant effort to not wait until the last minute to ask for something
Brag about her to my friends
Get her swag asap, especially at a new school
In a spare moment, keep the kids and send her out on her own
Remember that she is the one who is still there when the lights go out and the career is done
Love on my kids after wins AND losses
Consider that your career moves are her moves too
Find her before talking to the media
Recognize that I am a better coach because she is by my side

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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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i married a black coach; this is my story

I Married a Black Coach; This is My Story

Sports have been said to be one of the world’s most level playing fields. Talent, drive, hard work, and performance supersede almost all else most of the time; at least where players are concerned.

Yes, athletes are, generally speaking, judged mostly on their ability to execute and win games.

But does this performance-based evaluation extend into the realm of coaching? Considering football, my answer is no. 

I am a white woman who is married to an African-American high school football coach in the South.

I grew up watching football and loving sports. I was one of those girls who followed ESPN and knew about recruiting classes and player statistics when I was in high school and college. Not so much these days because, you know … life… but I was once “her.”

Even though I followed football so closely, it wasn’t until I was with my husband that I realized the severity of systemic racism in coaching football across all levels. 

Notice what I said—systemic racism. This does not necessarily mean that coordinators, head coaches, administration, boards, general managers, owners, etc are all deep-seated bigots. No, that is not systemic racism.

This term is for racial inequalities that are embedded into a society so deeply that one can have no racial prejudices personally and still be an active participant and even benefit from the institutionalized oppression already in place.

I know because it was me.

Before I was with my husband, the thought that football, of all things, upheld racial inequalities never crossed my mind.

Think about it, when we watch on Friday nights, or Saturdays, or Sunday afternoons there are lots of black and white participants on the field. But what about leading the sideline? Or in the press box? Or in the office? Or even better yet, in those swanky club boxes (or wherever the owners sit). Where is the diversity in those places?

I am sad to say that, through my own ignorance, these questions never crossed my mind before I became not just a coach’s wife, but a black coach’s wife.

My claims are based solely on my observations and personal experiences.

No fancy scientific or social experiments have been performed. But let’s be real, we don’t need any of those for proof.

Truth be told, there are about a million different angles from which to analyze this complex issue and twice as many statistics and facts and figures I could throw out to prove that this is real, but you can Google all of that (and, if you are honest with yourself, you probably already know it’s true).

My goal is simple: a conversation that hopefully leads to the first step—admission. Admitting that systemic racism is alive and well in one of the most popular sports and lucrative businesses in our country on all levels.

Admitting that the color gap between the end zone and the upstairs offices is miles wide and decades deep.

And admitting that over time, without knowledge, hatred, or prejudice, white coaches and the like have long benefitted from an institutionally racist system.

After all, the first step on the road to recovery is admitting there is a problem, right? 

What Is A Coach’s Wife

What is a Coach’s Wife?

To anyone outside of the sports industry, I’m sure you’re thinking to yourself “What is a coach’s wife?” “Why does she identify and define herself by her husband’s job?” Well, if you haven’t had the pleasure of getting to know a coach’s wife, it might be hard to get it. It’s not just cute game day tees, making goodies bags, and cheering in the stands.

It’s Good

It’s “Hey babe, I forgot my lucky khakis. Can you drop them off at the field house?” only to not know which one of the 50 pairs he’s referring to. 
It’s pacing back and forth in the stands, muttering under your breath and/or bursting into screams, all while managing to keep the kids entertained and well behaved (and wearing your lucky game day tee.)

It’s a hug and a kiss after an exhilarating win or a longer, tighter hug after a heartbreaking loss and lending a supportive ear to go over the rights and the wrongs either way.

It’s having a large extended family that will be there for you in an instant when you need it, without question or hesitation. And vise versa. 

It’s Hard

It’s “I’m sorry, I know I said that we could go to that, but something’s come up. I have to go into work.”It’s biting your tongue and turning the other cheek when someone in the stands says “What was that? Why would he call that play? Does he even know what he’s doing?!”

It’s getting asked a lot “What does he do in the off-season?” “Coaching is a full time job?” And “What do you mean he can’t take the day off to come to my <insert event here>?!”

It’s “Hey babe. So, there’s this unbelievable opportunity that came up. What would you think about moving (again)?”

It’s Impossible

It’s a heartbreaking debate as to whether you go support your husband at his game or stand in his absence at your child’s event.

It’s having a heart big enough so there’s room for so many players, their parents, schools and towns, but strong enough to not break when it’s time to leave them.

It’s a faith strong enough to go through weeks or months of every year staring down the uncertainty of what the future holds and knowing whatever happens will be for your good.

It’s not knowing how you’ll make it through another game, another season, or another move, but digging deep to find the will and the way.

It’s Everything

It’s more than just a game or just a sport. It’s more than winning or losing. It’s more than just supporting and consoling.

It’s handling all the personal logistics, so coach can focus on the program ones. It’s packing and selling the old house, and saying goodbye to the friends and memories made. It’s unloading and settling into the new house, and getting out into the next community to plant seeds.

It’s fading into the background of someone else’s dreams and not getting overcome by the darkness, but instead finding your glow in the silver lining. It’s not playing an active role in the decisions that affect your life but being flexible and open to what may come. It’s going where you’re called, but not necessarily where you want. 

It’s hard times and beautiful ones. It’s stressful times and uplifting ones. It’s uncertain times and adventurous ones. It’s the times that are part of the game plan and the last-minute Hail Mary ones.

We don’t start out as coach’s wives. The road to becoming one is bumpy and complicated. It’s not that a coach’s wife is defined by her husband’s job, but that she is refined by it.

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I Met a Man This Fall—A Football-less Love Story

This guy looked just like my husband but without the stress and fatigue of football that he usually wears! My yard started looking amazing, too! This new guy was out there every weekend and sometimes after school—blowing leaves, bagging up sticks, playing with the dogs. It was getting really hard not to fall for this man.

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Dear Lord, Are You Sure This Guy is My Coach/Husband?

I have loved him through the perfect, undefeated, state championship seasons, the heartbreak of great competitive losses, and the fickleness of high school athletics. After years of learning how to accept that he’s perfectly alright with doing NOTHING for literally H O U R S at a time except watching game after game, he began more than one morning of this holiday break with something like, “Babe, which of your projects would you like me to help you with today?”

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I Found My Faith at a Baseball Field. Twice.

Then, on a Saturday in October, which started like any other day, I drove about an hour away with my mom to watch a couple of coach’s scrimmages. Because of the set up of the scrimmage, we were allowed to watch from the sidelines. And that’s where I finally learned the lesson that I was not in control. No matter how hard I tried, or how much I planned, nothing was a given.

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