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?”
“In track, there are all types of runners. There are sprinters. There are middle-distance runners. And, there are long-distance runners. Brother Roger was a middle-distance runner. His job was to do well in the time that he was given. And he did.”
But the truth is, no one bad play, no one unexpected loss, not even one loud heckler in the stands will be able to close a door that is Divinely yours. Along that same line, no clawing, scratching, or forcing will open one that isn’t meant for you.
But, I have come out of my typical “moving funk” years ahead of normal. All because I kept moving forward, doing the next right thing, even when I didn’t want to or didn’t feel like it. Unpack that box. Accept that invitation from a new neighbor. Decorate that room. Explore your new surroundings. Ask for (or accept) help.
I pride myself in the fact that I can take care of everything, but sometimes it’s nice to know you don’t have to do it all; and it’s a great way to make memories with your friends and loved ones before you leave town.
We cannot let the perfect be the enemy of the done. We cannot sacrifice our sanity by trying to run plays that just don’t work with our current personnel, life stage or needs. So don’t try. Sometimes you just have to wad those things up, toss them away and draw up something new.
Once I heard a parent fussing that “these coaches only work with these boys for 3-4 months out of the year…” I laughed out loud at the time. But the other day, it got me thinking. Every career, every position, every role in this life has its seasons.
I’m a teacher. August and September are super busy. Holidays are crazy but fun. Winter months are slow and steady. Spring fever hits, and summer brings fun and refreshment. Then it all cycles back around.
The seasons for a coach’s family work the same way.
Off-season. The months before the season are slow and steady, filled with weight lifting, conditioning, fundraising, etc. The weeks before become a little anxious. Coach is knee-deep in planning and prepping. I’m planning and prepping too, for other reasons.
Tryouts. There’s a little jittery excitement. The second week or so isn’t quite so jittery. I find myself on edge, as I readjust and brace for the heavy load of holding everyone steady for the months ahead. Transitions and shifts do that.
Pre-season. It’s so good to see coach back on the field. It’s good to see the boys we’re watching grow up back on that field. I’m a little nervous, no matter what. If last season was hard, I hope this season will be better. If last season was great, I hope they can continue with that momentum. I’ve learned that each season’s success will affect all of those around them, so I do all that I can do. Pray. Pray that the boys stay healthy and reach their goals. Pray the coaches remember that they were created for this, even when the pressure is high. Pray for the families as we try to support them the best ways we can.
Games. This is the equivalent to the holidays for school children. The mad rush from school, home for homework and supper, rush to one child’s little league game, back across town to daddy’s game, and fall into bed at 10 p.m. or so. The little ones live off of smiles from the dugout, high fives, and concession stand candy during those months. It’s wonderful, and a little insane.
Suddenly over. How is it that we’re never quite ready for this? The day after the season is like the day after Christmas. It’s hard to let go. It’s sad for our children as they realize they won’t see “their boys” everyday anymore. And even though it’s almost summer, it feels like midwinter as we slink back into what most consider a normal schedule. Every year we find ourselves asking, “What do we do now?”
The weeks following the season are hard at our house. Coach has to clean out the locker room, take up jerseys, plan the awards. At the same time, he’s home again, and I have to navigate this home-life limbo because my partner is back. After being the “head coach of the home team” for a while (as my husband calls it), I admit it takes a minute to remind myself to step back. We’ve almost been running two separate teams for months, and now it’s time to bring it back together. Then there’s graduation, that bittersweet period where you have to temper sadness with pride. Again, transition and shift.
Summer brings refreshment and reflection. Coach is planning for next year. I am, too. Maybe next year I’ll meal plan better. Maybe next year the baby will be able to walk a little steadier so we can stay for more of the games. Maybe next year… But for the time being, we enjoy time as a family. Well, our immediate family. But we always look forward to getting back to business and our baseball family.
Yes we spend much of our life concentrating on “the season” —those 3-4 months of scheduled madness. The truth of it is that for this family, it’s a year-round roller coaster with up and down stages and seasons. They ebb and flow, but they eventually cycle back.
We’re over a decade into this. I’ve never known life with my coach any other way, but I’m still learning to recognize the seasons… the moods, the emotions, the shifts that affect us all. I’ve learned there’s lessons in the losses, and our biggest victories come in the form of players and relationships, rather than games. I’ve learned that we wouldn’t appreciate one season of this life without the next, and even the hard times wouldn’t be so bearable if it weren’t for the rallies in between. I’ve learned to remember when I find myself in my winter, that it won’t be long. The seasons will shift, and spring is coming…
The rye grass on the baseball field has just started to turn green, and every day I ride by the field and think to myself, “Man, what a field! That Coach is killing it this year.” This is coming from a woman who has zero flowers planted in her yard. Don’t get me wrong, Coach has our yard looking great but it’s nothing compared to what that man can do to a ballfield. Not to mention I actually called it “rye grass.” Who am I?
So, each year as the season is winding down or over for good, and that feeling starts to creep in, I remind myself no matter how much I worry or even how confident I feel, it will not make a difference. I try to remind myself that whatever happens, it will all work out for our favor in the end.
You, my friend, are in the company of thousands of wives who have thought that very thing. It doesn’t mean you aren’t loyal. It doesn’t mean you aren’t supportive and it definitely, definitely does not mean you are a “bad” coach’s wife.
It means you are normal. And human. And loved … by the rest of us here in this strange little community of coaching.
It just means this life is really hard, so hard sometimes that the compassion in you wants to protect your little piece of the world from the crazy.
Transition is never easy. We’ve been the family that leaves, and we’ve been the family that is left behind. In my experience, staying behind is as hard of an adjustment as moving.
The truth is that coaches’ wives do need to be motivated, inspired, and championed. The seasons are challenging both physically and mentally, not just for the coach and the athletes, but for the coaches’ family too – but, coaches’ wives often need more than a locker room speech. We need radical paradigm shifts.
I had parked myself right in front of a broken cistern. I'd fill it up, but all my joy and peace and compassion still seeped through the crevices and cracks, until it was once again empty. I would fill my tank up and only get a mile down the road before I was out of gas again. I wasn't filling it with living water; I was filling it with muck, sludge, and junk. It was broken. I was broken.
What I love about “new team, new routine” is that it eliminates the obligation to do something based on the rationale that it’s a tradition. It gives me time to re-evaluate my coach’s wife resume as well as permission to determine the best path forward for our family in the year ahead.
It may be bittersweet, but sometimes change opens up a whole new happiness for you that you weren’t anticipating.
That’s the beautiful thing about dreams and plans.
God knows our hearts, and he knows what is best for us. He knows that while some of us thrive in structure, our lists can also create false permission to establish boundaries and limit ourselves where more significant opportunities are possible.