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.
Yes, we step into that space and remind our men of the kids who do listen … of the kids who become adults and still reach out … of the kids who needed a surrogate father … of the kids who played out of their shoes … of the kids who just need one caring adult and our men stepped into the space, the space between winning and losing—and that made all the difference.
The sight that met me inside those doors was one I will never forget—and one I have not stopped loving since. There they were, a sea of men. Old and young, many with excellent beards, all of them wearing football apparel.
I leave decisions about strategy, game plan, and playing time up to my husband and the rest of the staff. When coaches are pressured by fans and parents to win, or simply motivated by their own egos, our players and programs lose.
When your unranked team faces a top ten team—hope sees the underdog come out on top.
When your team has never beaten a certain opponent—hope brings the game to end that losing streak.
When you are facing your cross-town rival in your State Championship—hope makes that unexpected victory so much sweeter.
The behind the scenes is where the nitty-gritty happens. The stuff no one sees is what really matters and the reason these men and women who are coaches do what they do.
Some people will talk about you behind your back because they’re jealous of you. But some people will love you because of who you are. They will love you because your daddy took the time to help their son or brother when there was no one else that wanted to deal with him.
As an educator, I know that a student who tries and fails and tries again learns more than those that are constantly successful. The same is true for a football game. We lose to learn. Does it suck? Yep, it sucks big time. But is it necessary to learn and grow as an individual, team, program, school, and community? Absolutely!
And, while sports are certainly minor in comparison to keeping the world safe, the pain we may encounter still matters. It matters very much.
But I need you to know how much I love you when you are losing. I see you bring out the best you have to offer your athletes when you are losing.
You don’t know me yet but you will! I’ll be the crazy blonde lady in the stands. The one who some days may look put together and other days … not so much.
I’m not sure there’s anyone who struggles with the “what might have been” mentality more than a coach (can I get an AMEN?!). It sometimes tortures them. Day and night. In and out of season.
And golly does my husband have it bad. Like real bad. Sometimes before bed we still mull over the year he had that seven-footer move in on his basketball team and had to sit him because he wouldn’t come to practice.
“You know how bad we could have beat that team? Hillary, he can dunk it with his feet flat on the court. And I can’t play him.”
Most coaches can spend the majority of their days thinking and conversing about all things sports. At work, church, birthday parties, and even weddings. I always catch my man in a corner discussing the previous or upcoming season with someone. And I get it! It’s the same way we women are with our babies, that awesome new lipstick, and the new Walmart grocery pickup option. (Isn’t that amazing for all you busy ladies!? With lots of young’uns?!)
So my man is something else (at least we think so). He’s a teacher, multiple sport coach, and Doctoral graduate from the UofA. He juggles a very busy schedule and somehow still is oh-so-present in our home with our three boys.
HOWEVER. This guy can’t remember that I asked him to pick up a box of diapers or that those cookies are not for him (as he devours his fifth one). We have a wall calendar visible to all, and for some reason he still forgets the party is at 2:00 and finds himself on the lawn mower instead.
But let’s sit down and relive the State Basketball Championship of ‘97. He can vividly remember who touched the ball and at what second of the game. He can mentally account for every pass, every basket, and every game-changing foul. And if “so and so” didn’t have the flu, “we could have won that game!”
So at some point in the season, sometimes multiple times, we have these heartbreaking conversations.
“If so and so wouldn’t have moved.”
“If ‘ol boy wouldn’t have gotten in trouble.”
And of course, “If my starting (insert very important position) wouldn’t have gotten hurt.”
I think every team struggles with this at some time in a season, and every coach agonizes over it in their career. It’s the inevitable. Something unknown to them will inadvertently damage that hopeful chance at a ‘ship that they just knew was gonna happen.
And it stings. The decisions that coaches have to make can be a heavy burden to carry, and sometimes the cost seems great. The “what might have been” can slowly steal their hope for the sweet victories just ahead. But I believe these situations can teach our men, and even us, to trust in our God who loves to show us how He is always working for our good!
“What ifs” can sometimes wear a deceptive disguise and tend to come in the form of many distractions. Those hardships within the journey are unavoidable, and it’s easy to fall victim to the disruption it brings to our mission.
Remembering past experiences is crucial to moving forward, and we should always consider what those encounters can offer our future. But we have to be willing to continue following our path boldly without the worry of things out of our control.
So in our home, and in this season of life, we are striving to have a “What Will Be” frame of mind.
We want to remind ourselves where we’ve been, in hopes of finding a concentrated focus on the favorable things ahead. As I look back over the many years of our life, both personal and professional, I am in awe of how God used our sometimes-devastating situations to bring us to a place of such beauty in Him. Years of loss and heartbreak turned into four beautiful sons, three of our own flesh and one “adopted.”
Job and coaching changes that brought about such risk, resulted in some of our sweetest memories and friendships.
God has always, oh-so-faithfully, made beauty of the things we thought to be our biggest source of bitterness.
So cheers to many seasons of taking those situations that our coaches beat themselves up over and encouraging their hearts to heed the lesson it may teach. And here’s to hoping they can embrace the circumstances of each uncertainty and roll through those gut punches.
Pray those obstacles that sometimes crush the spirit of your coach and his players will quickly bring them to a place of deep understanding in Him and the bigger story He is creating. Because when your will is to seek HIM in ALL things, the echo of your heart has the power to alter the lives of those you encounter, both present and future.
And believing that the “what might have been’s” that seem to linger in their minds, will be transformed into “Remember what God did in the midst of.” Your journey is unique and special. Remember that always.
My professional training is as a mental health therapist so I assume that is why we have received quite a few of these phone calls from coaching colleagues over the years. Through our own difficult experiences and those of others, I am hopeful that I may be able to share some tips here that can help your family navigate these tragic situations with a little more secure footing.
Some families may think complete and early commitment might be the magic formula for turning out a champion, but it might also be a path that leads to burnout or injury.
My husband’s truck is his rolling locker and closet. Water bottles, Gatorades, and towels take up the most space. Various keys and Academy bags litter the floorboards.
You know what IS the best for them?
Working harder than everyone else.
Getting better just for the sake of being better than they were yesterday.
Learning to have hard conversations.
Staying late at practice.
Taking extra shots.
Running extra sprints.
Busting their tail in offseason.
You get the best of the man who loves the game, but cares about your character more. While most of the world sees you as wins and loses and what you did right and what you messed up, he sees the man you can become. He sees your strengths, but he also takes the time to help you improve your weaknesses.