Last week when I was on my little “me-cation”, I came across a gift shop in Sylva where I found some cute brown cocktail napkins that say, “It’s football season, have you seen my husband?” Initially I just had to laugh because it is so very true. Of course I bought the napkins so I can continue to laugh, and wonder where the heck he is sometimes. During football season I have a good idea of where I could find him if I had to. He is at some football field somewhere. The coach got home around 7am this morning from his trip to the Alabama game. I haven’t seen him for more than 20 minutes at a stretch since Wednesday.
People often think that being the wife of a coach must be fun and somewhat exciting, and it can be. It can also be extremely lonely and tiring. I can’t tell you how many times a week that I hear, “Where’s Dad?” from my kids, or “Where’s Lance?” from friends I see around town, or even his own mother. They should know the answer to this question by now, but I can remember when I too was like them. I would prepare dinner and wait for The Coach to come home, and I would wait, and then I would wait a little more. Then I would call him (back before texting) at the field house. One of the other coaches would answer the phone. I would finally get to talk to him, and I would discover that they were going to watch another hour of film before they headed home for the night. I would then eat an angry meal alone with my dog. Life was hard. Has life changed since then? Yes, but it has gotten more difficult, and The Coach works a lot more now than he used to. It’s okay, since I have learned what you call coping skills. Adaptation.
If you look up the word Adaptation, you will see that it means: a change or the process of change by which an organism or species becomes better suited to its environment in order to survive. This is what I have had to learn to do as The Coach’s wife. This is what all coaches’ wives must learn to do. It is a process. When I see a young coach get married, I know that it can go one of only a few ways. The first possibility, is that the young couple will work through challenges together adapting and getting stronger as people and as a couple. There will be massive knock down, drag outs, but they will survive. The second path of possibility, the young coach will stop coaching. Why? Because it is freaking hard to be married to a person who loves a sport as much as they love you. Most women understandably can’t take it. Compromise won’t happen, and the coach will quit coaching. Third, and this is the worst, the coach and his young wife don’t stay married. I have only seen this a few times, although statistics say that the divorce rate for football coaches is between 60-70%.
How have The Coach and I survived? I either win, or I learn. That is who I am. I never really lose, and I am happy with that. The Coach is not that way. He is a competitor by nature. Many times I have had to learn hard lessons in our marriage. One is that football will come first much of the time between mid July and the Super Bowl. Another lesson I’ve learned is that if I want time with The Coach I must plan it, or it must involve a football game. The Coach spends all his planning talents on coaching, so by the time he gets home he doesn’t have any planning abilities left. If I want a date, or want him do a family related activity, I must plan it. Most of the time this must involve football oriented activities such as, but not limited to: tailgating, lying on the couch watching football, grilling on the patio watching football, hanging out with friends and watching football, going to dinner in a restaurant with big TV’s and watching football, or attending a football game.
I mentally prepare myself to spend loads of time alone, or with the kids as a single parent. Sure, that sounds harsh, but the reality is that I have had to learn exactly who I am as a person. I’ve developed the independence of a single mom (I have ENORMOUS admiration for single parents who take care of everything on their own), but I have the privilege of a part-time partnership where I can cherish the moments we do get as a couple or as a family. I have a gargantuan “alone muscle” built from all my training being married to The Coach, but I also have incredible friends, lots of them coaches’ wives, who are supportive, and independent minded as well.
For years, and sometimes still, people will get a little question behind their eyes when they see me in public alone. I go to parties alone, I grocery shop alone, I workout alone, and I even take vacations alone sometimes. “Where is The Coach? ” people will ask. I explain that he is at a football game, or maybe he’s talking with recruiters, perhaps he is watching film, or he may be in a meeting. He could be meeting with parents, taking a player on a college visit, painting the field, or mowing a field. He is possibly on the phone with another head coach, and he might just be in the bed sleeping because he drove all night to get home to me after a big game in Alabama. I’ve learned that if The Coach shows up, or gets to be around for a bit, I count that in the plus column. I don’t try to keep up with all the time he spends on football anymore. He’s happy, and doing what he loves. As his wife I think I should be happy about that. We have wonderful times when we are together, but I don’t hand him my happiness as a weight to carry. I carry it for myself. It took me a long time to learn that lesson, but I have, so don’t be concerned if you see me around without The Coach. I’ve adapted, but I may ask you if you’ve seen The Coach.