You Don’t Have to Go to Every Game, and Other Things I’ve Learned
Dear younger coach’s wife,
I see you. You’re there without kids, or with really little ones.
You’re looking a little unsure, maybe even alone. There are a few things I wish I could say to you, if you’d simply trust me to speak my mind…
First off, don’t feel obligated to be at every game. I remember hearing all around me things like, “I have never missed a single game,” and, “When my son was three-days-old we were at the playoff game and it was 31 degrees.”
That was so intimidating to me back when my kids were little, maybe even moreso because I’ve always worked.
By Friday nights, I was tired. I remember driving early to games with my oldest, backing into a parking spot by the field (mind you, we’ve always been at a small school where this was possible) with my folding chair and sitting alone.
I watched most of the game but remember my Coach saying he watched me as I drove off for bedtime. It simply wasn’t worth it to me, to stay and be crazy tired the next day, simply to say I had stayed for the whole game. This was especially true back in the days of Coach driving to trade film or going to game plan early on Saturday mornings. I was a lot happier and less resentful, when both me and the kids had a good night’s sleep on Friday nights.
Don’t let anyone give you grief for doing what’s best for you.
My coach is an assistant football and head basketball guy. Basketball season with its Tuesday night games is so much tougher than Friday nights for me, especially now that my kids are in school.
We used to watch the JV Boys game, grab a quick concession stand supper with Coach, let him put PJs on before half time, and then head home. One well-meaning, older grandmother said one Tuesday night, “You can’t leave! The varsity boys haven’t even played yet!” I smiled politely and said “I have work tomorrow. The kids have to be up tomorrow. Coach will get the W or the L whether we are here or not and I don’t want to deal with tired babies tomorrow morning either way!”
Luckily for me, Coach has always been so understanding. He knew that although I wanted to be there, and although he liked me there, it wasn’t worth everyone being miserable just so I could punch a card that said I made every game. Feeling like I could do what was best for me and the kids left more room for me being happier with Coach all the other times.
Secondly, be careful about getting offended by what parents say during a game.
If you’re easily offended, move away from the parent pack. Sit where they won’t ruin your view of the game. I liked sitting near (some) of the parents. My rule, which parents knew if I sat near them, was ‘I’ll get offended when you say something about Coach that I haven’t already thought.’
When I’m passionate about a clean house, I have thought before “geez man – can’t you see what’s right in front of you?!?” Or when I’m passionate about help with the dishes, “Come on, guy – isn’t it obvious?!?” Or better yet, when I’m simply at the end of my rope, “Good grief, how oblivious can you be?!?”
While I jest, I think you get the idea of what I’m saying here. I’ve been frustrated with him plenty of times and am grateful no one can judge me based on what’s in my head, so why would I judge a parent based on a similar thought when their kid is involved?
Most of the time, my coach never even hears them. If it’s serious enough for me to repeat to him, then usually he laughs. If it’s deeper than that, he’s the one that needs to deal with it and his rule of thumb is to never have those discussions on game day.
Next, don’t expect Coach to answer your texts or calls during practice or ask him to be quick to respond when he’s surrounded by other coaches.
That sounds so silly but I see more and more young wives frustrated because they have unreasonable expectations for Coach during practice or film session. Don’t expect him to choose between answering you and giving his focus to the team, or if he teaches, his classroom duties.
I’m not talking about emergency situations. I always get the numbers of the other coaches on staff for emergency situations or when I know my coach has let his phone battery die and I have to contact him.
My coach and I have always had the rule that he would let me know when he’s in the pickup AWAY from the fieldhouse/gym, heading home. That usually means he’s broken free from the ‘good old boy’ session and no player is going to snag him for a ride home. When he’s confident he’s on his way, he lets me know.
Until then, I just assume he’s still at work and leave it at that. This may mean we eat at 6:30, this may mean he re-heats what the kids and I had an hour earlier.
Again, this keeps me from having unfair expectations of him and sets up some limits for both of us.
I don’t bother him while his focus is on the team; he in turn is very good about getting things wrapped up and heading home as quickly as possible.
In today’s world of cell phone communication, we sometimes forget the value in saving some of our stories of the day to share face-to-face. For us, Wednesday is ‘supper at the table’ night. I cook, the kids help, Coach gets home in time for us to sit at the table and simply talk. No phones allowed. No TV running in the background. We talk about our day, we laugh at one another, we reconnect face-to-face. It’s the Home Team game planning at its finest.
Lastly, do find time for you. Once a month, once a week, whenever you can, put some time on the schedule for you. Ask a cheerleader, ask a mom, ask a friend and find time to leave the house, the kids, the bills, the worries behind. Get someone to manage the kids and soak in the bath for an hour with a good book.
For me, it was having someone put the kids in bed without me there or asking my dear friends over to sit on the back porch while my kids played elsewhere. It doesn’t have to be perfect because if you wait for perfect, you’ll be waiting forever.
I find myself letting go of some of my mid-season resentment when I find some time to focus on my mental health instead of what Coach could have been doing.
Beautiful sister, we’re in this together. You’re made of stronger stuff than you ever even knew. Trade your unmet expectations of Coach for the realization that you’re missionaries in a ministry together and your whole outlook will change.
Know that every coach’s wife before you is cheering for you, and every coach’s wife yet to come needs your unique example of how you made it work.
Here’s to you, beautiful girl, and to the most winningest season yet for the Home Team!
Janie is in her 17th season as a coach’s wife. She and Coach live in small-town Texas somewhere between field goals & free throws with their two boys. She is a librarian and secondary English teacher by trade, a sports photographer and writer by trial (and error).