“She’s not just my #1 fan. She’s the glue.” ~ Jeffrey Barnett
Behind every great coach stands a great coach’s wife. This is definitely true. You may not see us, but we are there. We’ve been there since sports were invented and high school football became a “thing,” especially in Texas.
Yes, Texas high school football is a legend unto itself (more on that later). But regardless of where you live or what sport your husband is involved in, we love our coaches and are proud of them. It takes a lot of hard work to become a great coach’s wife. I come from a line of coaches’ wives (and the men they love), but even I’m thrown for a loop now and then. Thank heavens for my grandmother, fondly referred to as MiMi. She was a coach’s wife for more than 50 years. Just imagine the wisdom she shared with women who became engaged or newly married to a coach—me included!
We lost her in May of 2017, and I’m honored to capture her essence in this book. It’s a multi-layered manuscript—a primer covering timeless principles and a fresh look at what a modern wife faces daily. It’s a meaningful way for me “pay it forward,” as my MiMi always encouraged me to do. MiMi watched as the world of sports changed over time, but steadfastly advised that duty and dedication are eternal. This book is filled with her insights and those of other notable coaches’ wives as a resource for newly engaged, the newly married, and the veterans of our crazy coaching culture.
So what was MiMi’s secret to success? She believed in squeezing the most out of every moment spent with her busy coaching husband, and this led to a happy, productive pairing. This is major, and I mean major, because those who marry into the profession will soon learn how fleeting time is. That’s part of the culture shock—learning how to be a reasonably happy wife with an absent husband. But never fear! Learning the ropes doesn’t happen overnight, but it will happen. It’s a slow learning process that you can master with a pinch of patience and that all-important dash of duty. You’ll see what I mean as you turn the pages.
I compare marrying a coach to moving to another country. You’re suddenly immersed in a foreign culture and find that you must learn a new language. The new language is called X’s and O’s, and fluency is recommended to survive day-to-day discussions. This means you’ll need to master the numbers that go along with each X and O. As the seasons change, the numbers change. When you take time to learn the basic patterns of the language, you can quite possibly become an expert and spot penalties or errors.
Besides the language, you’ll learn a new time schedule. Fall, winter, summer and spring become preseason, season, and off season. There are the playoffs, which often intermingle with the holidays.
Of course, there is one advantage to each new season. Instead of having a summer and winter wardrobe, we now accumulate spirit-themed clothing for every occasion. Looking for a color that will flatter you? FORGET IT! My wardrobe consists of the basic school colors. And it never fails that when you change schools, the color is never the same. Just try dying “kelly green” to maroon. However, the simplicity of t-shirts, jerseys, and comfy jeans is worth it. Of course, every once in a while I see some “bleachers and bling” attire that makes me go online and order something sparkly. I once saw a rhinestone-adorned t-shirt emblazoned with The Toughest Part of The Game is Being the Coach’s Wife, and really thought that was awesome.
After you know the language and adjust to a new time schedule, it’s time to toughen the skin. Yes, thick skin is essential, especially when you love your husband to the moon. This was my most challenging adjustment, and it took years to develop. I still struggle with it. You see, the verbal abuse heaped upon coaches ranks only next to the President our country. It’s painful to watch, even from the sidelines. At times you’ll be tempted to “school” the fair-weather fans and set the record straight. You might even be tempted to sit on the visitor’s side, because it’s much easier to witness the abuse of enemies rather than your coach.
You will not be the only wife who has this problem. But when you toughen up, you’ll be able to sit calmly in the midst of the pitchforks and burning torches verbal assaults and realize it does not matter, because you know your man is the greatest coach on the planet!
If you have adjusted so far, you are nearly there! Now it is time to emotionally accept sports. The old saying “It’s not whether you win or lose…” is a bunch of hogwash, especially when you share a home with the winner or loser. Some have no idea what is like to LIVE football, basketball, baseball or other sports every day, even during the “myth” of the off-season. Those trite words, “The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat,” become your personal anthem from week to week.
Is it worth it all? YOU BET!
I would not trade places with any other wife for anything in the world. Where else can you witness the ultimate high of instilling pride in the heart of a 15-18 year old? Hearing the words, “Did you see me, Coach? I DID IT!” creates moments and memories you’ll treasure for a lifetime.
When you sit in the stands or stand on the sidelines (my normal spot), either yelling your head off or keeping to yourself, you might be asked, “Do you have someone playing?” I proudly smile and respond, “Yep, he’s the one in the coach’s uniform.” I love my coach and am so proud of everything he masters on the playing field, but more importantly, off the playing field.
So buckle up for a roller coaster of highs and lows—and insights across a 50-year arc—and trust that you’ll eventually enjoy the ride. So many wonderful women (and one guy) contributed to this book, which was written to let you know you are not alone. You’ll be a savvy member of our sisterhood in no time!