I find it curious how life seems to parallel itself with football in so many ways. Sometimes I feel like I just got a first down, or even a perfect pass for a touchdown, and other times I am pretty sure I just got tackled by a 265lb. linebacker with a loss of yards on the 3rd down. I’m sure we all have days like this, but lately I have had more than my share. With pressures and struggles as a mom and wife, a teacher and friend, a sister and daughter. I have certainly been knocked down, and fumbled a few plays. I look to the football field and it gives me hope. I know, it sounds crazy, but life is often like a fascinating game.
Many times people look at me and think mistakenly, “Wow, she has it all together”. Sometimes on my best days, I even look at myself and say that. The reality is that I am very blessed, but I if I don’t keep everything in balance things quickly become a wreck. Sometimes I lose focus, and I find myself in a mix of anxiety over things I can’t control, and deep sadness that eats at my soul. I feel alone and misunderstood, whether that is truly the case or not. We all go through this, I know. It just seems that I have to fight a little harder than most against these feelings. I am a highly sensitive person, as most creative people tend to be.
It gets intense this time of the year. The playoffs have finally arrived. We have completed all of our regular season games undefeated. As the season progresses, the pressure starts to cook you. Most people think that it’s easy to be married to a winning coach. I have even heard people say lately that The Coach has it easy since he has so much talent to work with. This kind of talk makes me cringe. While the talent is present, hard work dominates the program at Shelby. The Coach loves his job, but he also works extremely hard to be the best. He and I are both this way. We are people who believe for more. We are both driven, even though we are driven in different ways. We press on relentlessly. We never stop growing, or stay satisfied with a mediocre situation. The Coach is surrounded by like minded men who are gifted in coaching themselves, and work incredibly hard. When someone tells me that The Coach has it easy, I want to correct them since I know that talent is a blessing, but hard work is paramount.
The pressure can be intense and exhausting. I sit in the stands, and even though I have prayed, taken up the slack at home, and done my part for the week so The Coach can properly prepare for the game, I look on without the ability to secure the win. I don’t get to talk with the team during half time. This is something we coaches’ wives joke about frequently because frankly sometimes we would LOVE to have a word with the team at the half. My hands are tied. I sit and watch, at times in disbelief. I have no control over what is happening on the field. I can only know that I have played my part during the week to try to help the success of this team my husband loves. Parents of athletes understand this. You can’t control what happens on that field if your son drops the ball, makes or doesn’t make the kick, gets tackled, or runs the ball back for the touchdown. I relive that each week of football season, every year. My boy never graduates, he’s The Coach.
I try on every level to be the best person I can be, but I still feel the sting of judgement from people who think they know what my life with The Coach is like. I try to take this lesson and realize that I have no idea what other people are facing in their daily lives either. We all have our struggles. We all face battles that no one, even our closest friends, know or understand. This is where our compassion must force its way through. I try to understand what other people are dealing with, but I am discovering that I don’t always do such a good job with that. I suppose I struggle, just like everyone else with understanding on a deeper level.
When The Coach first became the head coach, things were not so pretty that first year, even the second year was a bit ugly. People seem to forget that The Coach wasn’t always considered to have such an easy job. Back then people were calling him Air Ware, and the screams during the game came from fans yelling “run the ball”, and harassing The Coach from the safety of the stands. I gain strength from this memory. I remember holding a baby and watching my two little boys wrestle on the sidelines during the game. I certainly had my hands full back then. Those trying times made us stronger. They made us smarter. They taught me to trust my gut even when everyone else might say otherwise. Making hard decisions and pushing through the madness makes us strong.
At the end of the day I have done whatever I thought was right at the moment. I know that The Coach is this way too. We do things that are unconventional at times, and we are bold in many areas of life. Living your best life doesn’t mean living a perfect life. Don’t we all love to see a real, honest game down on the field where players work and struggle and play with all their hearts until that final buzzer sounds, and the clock is down to zero? A game where fumbles are recovered and great plays are made, despite the mistakes and penalties? The struggles we face make us more beautiful, not less. The struggles we face make us interesting and intriguing, challenging and complex. I love to watch a fierce game that makes me pray and shut my eyes for a bit because it is too intense for me to look. I love a game that is full of surprises and unlikely heroes. When you win that kind of game, it is more than extraordinary. An easy win never makes a team better. It never makes for a great story to be retold year after year. An easy win in life never makes a person better. The challenges are what make us amazing. The comebacks are what make us great. It’s all part of the game.