Journal

When You’re Fired — a Coaching Family’s Survival Guide

Less than five years ago, when we were regularly enjoying 10+ win seasons, my coach and I attended a coaches marriage event. We sat in a circle with other coaching couples and watched one of our peers break down, sharing that he had now been fired for the second time in his career. I can very clearly remember the pain he, and his wife, shared with us.  We watched couple after couple in that room raise their hands and say, “Us too,” and, “It will be okay.” It was the first time I heard the phrase, “If you haven’t been fired yet, keep coaching.” 

I was horrified. I thought that only happened to a very small minority of coaches, particularly college coaches. I remember looking at my husband saying, “Please God, don’t ever let that be us.” 

Welp, count us in.  We are now survivors.

The details of our story are not particularly important because as I have learned, our situation was not unique. It matches up with countless coaches in schools all across the country.  Publics chools, private schools, wealthy schools, poor schools, class, color, creed, it doesn’t matter. The coaching world can be an unpredictable landmine.

If you happen to find yourself, or a coaching family whom you love, facing this deeply painful experience, I am hopeful that these bits of wisdom may help you through.

  1. It’s going to hurt, a lot, for a while. Like any other loss you will have good days and bad days … try to not hold too tightly to either one.  The pain does subside over time. It also shows back up sometimes when you least expect it. Remember that pain is not bad, it shows you what hurts so you can continue to heal that spot.
  2. Have your hubby connect with his coaching buddies, or anyone he respects in the coaching community. This was immeasurably valuable for us when grief and doubt set in for my coach. Me telling my coach he knows what he is doing became white noise quickly.  Other professionals who know him and the game mattered, especially if they had been through the same thing.
  3. Take care of y’all. Life, sleep, food, Christmas, family traditions, vacations, etc. are all still important despite this particular train going off its rails. Keep normal what you can keep normal.  This will sustain you, your coach, and your children as the unknown swirls about.
  4. Whatever coping strategies you or your husband typically use during stressful times, expect those to go into hyper drive. Emotional eater, look out. Cryer, get some tissues. Husband’s (ahem) “interest” in you?  Yep. When everything else is out of control we reach for those things that make us feel good. Try your best to find balance.
  5. No matter how a firing goes down, it usually involves some deep betrayal of trust. You will need to find a way to make meaning out of the experience even when it doesn’t make sense. Making meaning out of a situation is one of the most effective ways to fight bitterness.
  6. After my husband was let go it was the only true “down time” he’d had in over a decade. Do things together you would never have had time to do otherwise. Another job will come, another span of free time is less likely … he is a coach after all!
  7. Give each other permission to be mad, sad, okay, happy, whatever you are feeling as the process unfolds. I didn’t realize how hurt I was until months later. People grieve differently.
  8. All wounds heal but the scars often stay sensitive. This will change who you are and how you see the game. That’s okay. Believe that there is purpose in the journey.
  9. Exit as gracefully as you can. How you leave a place may affect how you get to the next place. I can’t stress this point enough.
  10. Use your strings and pull them. Pray your socks off for the soil of the next place you go to be primed for your family. Fall on your face with gratitude when God works it all out.

This was the last year of my life. I hope it blesses your yours.