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.
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.
I found myself counting their blessings rather than my own. The sour attitude I had was causing a ripple effect throughout all parts of my life.
I pray he remembers he has a wife who has his back (sometime maybe too much), no matter what. I am strong enough to be a coach’s wife.
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.
But then the games stopped. Sports and this lifestyle came to a screeching halt. Suddenly, he was home all the time.
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.
In case you are eyeball deep in a playoff run, constantly scrolling Football Scoop, about to start coaching yet another sport, or already looking at next year’s prospects, let me remind you that it is already December. This means your amazing, remarkable, beautiful, intelligent, epic wife/fiance/girlfriend is soon to need some gifts that match her amazing-ness.
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.
My Dad sacrificed time with his own children to help raise others, but what I hope he knows is that I and my sister were watching and learning how important it is to love those around you and show that love through action.
These are stories we hear every year —
Coaches developing chronic panic attacks. Players suffering from depression or anxiety. Coaches becoming physically ill due to mental distress. Coaches and players struggling to navigate online criticism.
Our family is a coaching family. I will never again question that. If and when sports go back to normal, I am not saying I won’t complain when coach isn’t home to help force my 4-year-old into the bathtub, but I will know what it’s like on the other side, the side without sports.
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.
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.
Your coach is out until at least 2:00 am every Friday night, and you don’t question it.
Remember that we coach in their sacred spaces. We are coaching the people they have loved, raised, cried, and prayed over long before we got them. For some, we are coaching their validation of self. I’m not making excuses for poor behavior, I’m offering a space for us to gather some empathy for the seemingly extreme reactions.
So when you come home to visit your family, don’t forget to come visit ours too. If you’re passing our house on the way out of town and you think about pulling in the driveway, do it. That bonus room in the new house is being built with you boys in mind—a place where the boys can always gather. And if you come to a game, you better give me a hug.
I share this story in hopes of being an encouragement. We all come from different backgrounds, have different interests and personalities. We know for a fact that being a coach's wife is tough much of the time, and that some of us adapt to it better than others.