You know, I didn’t want to write this article.
Correction, I wish there wasn’t a need to write this article. But, there is. So, like the brave women we have always been, we are going to face it.
The possibility of an altered summer. Or no summer. Or maybe, no football season at all.
Dang, just typing those words made me tear up. For nearly two decades, I’ve never known anything different. Summer conditioning. Camp. 7-on-7. Dead/moratorium week. Squeeze in a family vacation. Hot days, bucket hats, picnics in the locker room, equipment, two-a-days and then it arrives. Football. Always predictable, beautifully stressful, football.
Until this year.
When the world came screeching to a halt this spring, many of us didn’t recognize the gravity of it all. Fast-forward to sports and the school year being cancelled and the weight of it hit.
This thing is for real.
The steps that have been taken to keep us safe during this pandemic has implications. The kind of implications that may drastically alter how we do this life for a while.
And, while sports are certainly minor in comparison to keeping the world safe, the pain we may encounter still matters. It matters very much.
So, let’s talk about what we are up against.
Two Primary Challenges We Will Face
Identity: Coaches (and coaching families) often have a strong identity in the job. For many, they consider it their calling. It is the way they feel purpose and seek to make a difference.
Even now, many of us have seen our husbands struggle to figure out how to stay connected to the game and to their players. Bingeing online clinics, scheduling Zoom after Zoom with their staff and players, trying to think of any possible way to conduct socially distant workouts, anything. Just get me back out there. I miss my guys.
The possibility of losing time with them is heart wrenching. The possibility of losing an entire season is devastating.
Coaching FOMO: The fear of missing out. Our country is really big folks. The way that different states, cities, or even counties have responded to the pandemic means that different coaches and different school districts have different policies.
This summer, and maybe even this fall, may end up feeling like the Wild West because the regulations are not going to be the same for everyone. Cue the social media comparison where the rival school across town is allowed to do stuff you aren’t and we are prime for some frustration. We are going to need some coping skills for the weirdness, the madness and the discrepancies.
Ways We Can Cope & Comfort
Ask Coach what he needs. The days ahead will potentially hold a whole lot of frustration. When we ask what he needs it gives him the chance to give a tangible answer (i.e. I need to vent, I need to call a buddy, etc.) or to say there isn’t anything you can do. Remember, even when the answer is no, an offer to help is a demonstration of care and support.
Be a non-anxious presence. This is a term I learned from a friend in pastoral care. A non-anxious presence is exactly what it sounds like. It means when his world is falling apart, you are simply present. You don’t have to fix it, you don’t have to have an answer. In fact, you may not need to say anything. Just simply being present while he is hurting can be healing even though it may not feel like you are “doing” anything.
Ask questions that allow grieving and gratitude. Sometimes we need “encouragement” to engage in emotional work. I’m not asking you to play therapist—the questions have to be real to who you are. So, if Coach will answer, “What part of this is the hardest for you?” then ask that. But, if you need to say, “What part of this sucks the most?” then ask it that way. And, of course, we cannot only focus on what is hard. Ask about what is going well and reflect on what you can be grateful for. Remember, gratitude literally guards the mind against despair.
Pay attention to your own self-care. It’s not just his job. We all know that. You love those kids, you love him, and it may be very hard to experience whatever the season ends up looking like this year. Remember, self-care is not a luxury. It is a biological necessity to manage stress just like eating manages hunger. It makes no sense for any of us to come out of this as an emotional casualty. Take care of yourself and your people in this very weird time.
Have faith. I don’t know what this looks like for you, but faith is the only way I know how to manage questions that have no answers. Coach may be asking questions like, “How am I supposed to compete when things aren’t equal?” “How am I going to reach that kid if I don’t see him at practice everyday?” “How can I achieve those goals for this year if we don’t have a summer schedule or season?” You know what? I don’t know. But, I know Who does. God knew exactly where we were going to be, what school we would be at, and what class would face this challenge. And, I suspect He knows how He is going to provide for us through it as well.
Speak strength into the unknown. This has become one of my favorite catch phrases since this whole mess started. We are either going to let this experience happen to us or we are going to happen to it. We don’t know if we get to be with kids this summer. We don’t know if we get to go to camp. We don’t know if we get to have a season.
But, we know who we are. We are people who do hard things. We are people who figure it out. We are people who are going to make an impact in the lives of those athletes even if all our usual methods aren’t allowed.
We are coaching families. We’ve never been just about the work on the field and now is no different.
We know the most important work often happens off the field. And, if that’s all we get this year, we are going to take full advantage of it.
Lord, please save our football seasons. But if not, please save our impact. That matters more than anything else.