I used to hate the title I now proudly bear. Being a coaches wife is no easy job. It takes true sacrifice and commitment. I have cried many nights, feeling alone, or simply not feeling like a priority in my husband’s life. In the earliest years of my husband’s coaching career, I struggled. I resented the time commitment, and in time I began to resent my husband altogether. My relationship with my husband’s team was one of competition. It was me verses them, and I made sure he always knew the score, as I pitted myself against his passion. I never wanted to come right out and give him an ultimatum, because I was afraid I knew what his choice would be. Not me. Of course, this may not be true, but I was never willing to take his biggest passion away.
I felt cheated as a wife. Surely this was not what I signed up for. In the early years of our marriage my husband coached 2 sports, at schools an hour or more from our home, and the issue of him being gone, or tired all the time when he was home, was the biggest thing we fought about. I would pace the floor and look at the clock getting angrier each minute he wasn’t back by the time he said he would be. I would be outraged that he had to wait for parents to get their kids for over an hour after practices, or get caught up in some conversation with a parent or athlete till “way too late.” Didn’t he know I was home waiting for my turn to talk to him, which seemed to never come? Fourteen to eighteen hour days were becoming his norm, yet on a teacher’s salary. By our third year of marriage I was so tired of this endless battle, that I decided something had to change. Since my complaints and requests seemed to go unheard, I decided I must be the one to change.
I worked so hard to be positive and supportive, but despite my best intentions when that witching hour would roll around and he’d be home at midnight on a Wednesday night, I’d explode once he walked in the door. I tried attending some of his events, in hopes of seeing him more, but my presence seemed to go unnoticed. I would become angry if he didn’t get to tell me hello, and harass him about it later. “What is the point in me taking time to come if I don’t even see you, if to you I’m invisible?” That was his world, and I clearly needed to get my own. I was tired of being second fiddle, tired of late night phone calls interrupting the little time I spent with him, tired of my needs being put on hold. Was it too much for a wife to ask for some undivided attention? To me it seemed if something had to be taken care of for the team, the whole world could wait, but if I needed something, I must wait till after the team was cared for. Birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays were either forgotten or shared. I hated to see the effort I perceived that he would pour into the team, versus the effort I thought he put into our marriage, but I kept the tally.
After our first child, I tried even harder to be a part of the sports scene. I showed up to more events even though I felt unnoticed, so our baby could see his daddy. I would smile through a clenched jaw at the athletes and parents who said hello. I really resented all the time they took away from my family. I began to feel like a single parent. My child would sometimes not see his father but once a week, as he was sleeping most nights when “coach” came home. I felt totally alone. And for what? The pay was terrible! When I calculated the meager check my husband got per season, it was clear to me he was working for well below minimum wage. Might as well call it volunteer hours, except of course nothing was tax deductible. All this sacrifice, and in my eyes I got nothing in return. At one point my toddler summed up the way I felt when he said, “mommy, is my daddy married to those wrestlers?” Why yes son, it sure seems that way doesn’t it? I was tired of making excuses for why daddy couldn’t tuck him in; I didn’t want him to hear the bitterness in my voice when I talked about his father’s frequent absenses.
Then something started to change in my heart. At first it was a desperate attempt to fix our marriage which I felt was rocky at best. I started to try to look for the positives. I would try to be thankful that my husband didn’t work as a long haul trucker, or musician, always on the road, and I realized that I had it way easier than military wives. I tried to appreciate his time at home, however brief it was. Still that resentment lingered, and anger flared up each time my expectations weren’t met. I would breathe a sigh of relief when the end of a season came, feeling like the time I’d waited for so long (my time) was here. And then I would be devastated when the season was never really over. Off season practices and events would start up unexpectedly (to me) within a few weeks. Just after my husband got over his after season fatigue, and as soon as I had gained him back, I felt I had lost him again.
When I felt ready to give up, and find something to lose myself in, so we could be like two separate entities that shared the same roof, (something I never wanted for my marriage) I decided to spend one more season being as supportive as I could. I began going to every event I could, no matter the inconvenience or the way I felt shoved aside. I decided to bite my tongue when he came home late. I decided to actually listen when he wanted to share something about the team with me. That is when I began to see a change in my husband as well.
He was really appreciative to me for showing up, even if I didn’t get to spend time with him. He said the support mattered, and that he realized it wasn’t easy on me. He began apologizing to me for being late, instead of fighting to defend himself. He even started trying to communicate with me about his schedule more. Then one day I struck up a conversation with one of the team moms. To hear the appreciation and respect she had for my husband was an eye opener. I had not had the same appreciation or respect for the often thankless job he does. I had seen his passion for kids as my enemy, and now for the first time, I began to see what my husband was really doing with all those hours away. He wasn’t in a bar, or hanging out with the guys just to shirk his duties at home, or to avoid meeting my needs, just to spite me. No, he was busy shaping the lives of young men, the next generation. He was busy being a mentor, and a role model, so much more than just a coach. What he did suddenly became about so much more than just a sport.
I began to study my husband as he coached. Instead of being angry that he was surrounded by his athletes, too busy to nod his head my way, I watched him with them. The way their faces lit up when he motivated them was moving to me. The awe and respect they had for him, and the way he helped an athlete recover after an embarrassing loss were two things I’d missed when I was so angry. And then there was the way he dealt with others. I began to notice he was a man who treated everyone with respect. When he became head coach, he took pride in the character of his team. He was all about molding these kids into outstanding young men and members of society, not just pumping out the best athletes. He cared deeply about their reputation, appearance, and sportsmanship, but most of all he cared about their future. The kids began thanking me for the time I allowed him to devote to them, and that really made my hard heart melt. I found that he was father figure to them, especially to some of them who had no father. I heard the way the parents and other coaches respected him in the community. I had a new admiration and a new respect for my husband.
It was then that I went from being against my husband to being his helper. I became his biggest fan, his supporter. I love to be there at his events just to see him do what I know he was meant to do. Instead of dreading a new season, I get a little excited about “traveling with the team.” I love to hear athletes come back and tell me how my husband has changed their life in some way. I have developed relationships with many of the kids and parents of the team. I no longer feel like an outsider, forgotten at home, but a part of a family, a part of something bigger than us: part of a team. It is not always easy and I still have days that I have to talk myself out of getting angry when plans are cancelled, there is another late night, or he is unable to show up to something, but I will tell you things are so much better now that he knows he has my support. I am finally on my husband’s team.
Coaches wives, new to the experience, hating the job your husband does, or somewhere back and forth between love and hate, I have been there. If you feel stuck in an endless cycle of being unable to genuinely support your husband in what he does, let me encourage you: “get in the game.” If you relate with the story above, and feel you have not made much progress, start small. Decide to be forgiving if he isn’t home on time. Listen to him talk about how a game went, and give him some encouragement. Pat him on the back for the job he does once in a while, though you feel it takes so much from you. Don’t make him feel like the only place he can’t win is at home, then what reason will he have to want to be there? Show up to a game; get involved. Start to lower your expectations of the time you will spend together, and focus on being appreciative of any little time that is available. No one needs your support more than your husband. He is there supporting his team and their parents all the time. There will be times when he feels like a failure, and when he feels like everyone is against him. Don’t be a part of that tide. Be on his team. Build him up, rather than knock him down.
Often the type of marriage you will have rests with you, ladies. I have found that if you will make the first move, he will usually respond. You can choose to be bitter and miserable, letting his coaching career come between you, or you can work to have it be something that brings you together, a love you share. You can’t change this thing he loves that God put in his heart for such a good reason, so be for him, even if you don’t feel like he is for you. I promise it will make a difference. You will never be happy sitting on the sidelines waiting for a change in the game that may never come. Only when you become a part of his world will you be immensely rewarded by the work he does. You can take joy in knowing that your support is the reason for your husband’s success as a coach, yes, but more importantly, as a man. You can take pride in the wins, you can comfort in the losses; you can know that in every life that was impacted for the better, you played a part. You can reap the harvest, if you help your husband sow. Chances are when you become a part of his world, he will want to become a part of yours.