The Times, They Are A’Changin’!!

So if you’ve followed this blog at all (and you probably haven’t) I’ve written about change and transition A LOT. It’s a huge part of the whole coaching lifestyle. Well, that call finally came for us. But not in any way close to how I imagined it coming. A couple of months ago, in the midst of what I can describe only as smack dab in the middle of the darkest period in my adult life, I was shuttling our 2 girls to a gymnastics meet 5 hours away, solo. I was solo because our family had suffered the unimaginable loss of my husband’s 27 year old cousin, suddenly and without much warning. While we were reeling, the competitive gymnastics season trucked on and so did we. He stayed behind for the service and visitation and the girls and I tearfully and reluctantly left town.

I wasn’t 2 hours away when he called with news that we had been waiting for….we had a new opportunity. And not a coaching opportunity either. Something that would keep him not only in the same state, but the same town! All the time! And he wouldn’t have to travel, save for a weekend here, a week or so there, maybe 3 times a year. No more late nights at the office, no more juggling soccer and gymnastics with recruiting trips, pregame meals and last minute emergencies at the field. No more missing entire weekends of activities because the team is in another country.

No more tailgating…no more wives outings…no more sisterhood…no more bear hugs from linemen who are dripping in sweat and bleeding from some unseen gash in their heads but don’t feel a thing…no more hearing, “Hi mama!” from 80 boys on a daily basis…with one decision, everything we’ve ever known as a family was turned on it’s head. At first I wanted so badly to tell him to say no. We made it through this long, we can make it work again. Then I thought of the 6 children under the age of 13 whose fathers or mothers I have buried in the last 6 months and I instantly knew what we had to do. So The Decision was made, he accepted, we hung up the clipboard and whistle and we’re in the mad dash of moving.

I’ve written a ton of blogs about purging, organizing, getting your ish in check for a move. Guess what? I didn’t listen to a damn thing I wrote. Not. A. Thing. 7 trips to the dump, countless garbage bags and many, MANY late nights later, my house is getting there. We have a showing on Thursday and don’t EVEN get me started about how much THAT stresses me out, so I’m down to crunch time. Laundry has been done, down to the last sock, the only rooms I have left that need some serious work are the kitchen and my youngest daughter’s room. Both of which are small and pretty easy. Then I just need to run a quick vacuum and broom over things and breathe. Riiiiight.

In the meantime, we have nowhere to live in our new town (which is 400 miles and 6 hours away), I don’t have a job yet and my husband leaves in exactly 13 days. No big. I always told myself our first move was going to be so exciting and an adventure and the best times in our lives. HA! Have I MET me?! Have I seen how insane I get when things are out of my control? I’m funny.

The last wrinkle of all of this is the good byes. Last night I saw the staff and wives for the first time since we made The Decision. It was easier than I thought it would be, but coaches wives are a special group. We (yes, I still consider myself a coaches wife even though technically I’m not one anymore) are used to transition and moves. We know goodbye is inevitable and it’s part of the game. So there were hugs and “I’ll miss you’s” and “we’ll have dinner before you go!” This week I’m meeting with another group of ladies who I’ve grown close to over the years and next week I put on my last seminar here.

While the good byes are hard, I’m so excited for the next chapter. Being able to have time as a family has been an amazing experience and while I wouldn’t trade the last 6 years of our lives for anything on this Earth, I can’t wait to go to a college game this fall, as a family. ❤

On The Road Again…..

Hello, Friday!! Let me tell you, today couldn’t have come at a better time, it has been a LONG week! This week’s pondering is about road trips. Not the kind from college where you loaded 5 people into a compact class car on a whim and drove all night until got to wherever you decided to go. Not the kind where you and your spouse pack up the car, leave the kids at grandma’s and spend a weekend alone together with no cell service (how amazing does THAT sound though?!). I’m talking about ROAD TRIPS. What’s the difference between road trips and ROAD TRIPS you may ask? Well, let me give you an example.

My hubby, the Coach, and his band of merry men (otherwise known as the football team) have been road warriors in October. Now, I realize that it’s only the 17th and October is really only half over, but stay with me. Counting this weekend’s adventure, our football players and coaching staff will have spent about 14 hours on planes, 66 hours on busses and traveled about 5,600 miles. Before the month of October comes to a close, they will travel ANOTHER 1875 miles and spend ANOTHER 30 or so hours on a bus. If you’re keeping score at home, that’s 14 hours by plane, 96 hours by bus and 7,475 total miles. I don’t care how you break it down, that’s A LOT of miles. They will have traveled through South Dakota, Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, California, Washington and into Canada. Later this month they will go back through Wyoming, Colorado and into Utah. That’s after another trip at the end of September where they traveled 26 hours round trip and traveled around 1600 or so miles through South Dakota, Iowa, Nebraska and Missouri. 10 states and 2 countries all in about 6 weeks.

I know what you’re thinking; football teams travel all the time. This is nothing new and besides, it’s not like they didn’t know what they were signing up for. And I would agree with you! For the most part. This is travel at an unprecedented level. At the beginning of October, they went to Northern California. It was 30 hours, one way. On a bus. Because the cost to fly was NOT in the budget. They left on Thursday and got back at 3:00 am Monday morning. That’s significant for a lot of reasons. The most obvious of which is the players missed 2 full days of classes and then had to operate on only a couple of hours sleep. I know that’s not unusual for kids of that age, but have you ever tried to sleep on a bus? Yeah, no bueno. The second reason getting home in the middle of the night is significant is the coaching staff missed an entire day of work. Sundays are a full day of film, game planning, meetings, etc. You can’t do a lot of that on a bus nor do you want to. When you’re having the kind of year like we are (not a fantastic one), it just adds to everyone’s stress. To add yet another wrinkle to this already bizarre season, there is no bye week in our schedule. I’ve never considered them before, but now I see how critical a bye week is to a team. It’s time for players to heal up, get some treatment on their injuries, take a few days off to catch up on school work or sleep and just decompress and get ready for the rest of the season. For coaches, it’s much needed family time. I didn’t realize how important that was until this season. My husband brought me flowers yesterday for no reason at all and I absolutely lost it. I knew this season had me stressed, but I had no idea HOW stressed until I burst into tears over grocery store flowers. 🙂

Finally, and this is sort of selfish of me, we just flat out miss my husband! My girls don’t see dad much anyway during the season. He’ll walk them to school whenever he can and that might be the only time they get with him for that day. If he gets home “early” (early is defined in coaching as before 8:00 pm), we try and get ice cream or make dinner as a family in between soccer practice, games and gymnastics practice. We get our Friday night date nights at high school games (I blogged about that a few weeks ago, here) but we don’t get any just us time. We usually catch up on sports highlights and talk about our days whenever he gets home, which I wouldn’t trade for the world, but our time together is almost non-existent, especially this season.

For now, the dog and I will enjoy having the entire bed to ourselves and I will enjoy falling asleep to my true crime shows instead of SportsCenter. I will treasure not getting up to an alarm on Saturday morning and being home to watch college football all day instead of racing from game to practice to game to dinner, but we will miss him. And yes, in a few short weeks I will probably be writing about how much I miss all of this madness and how my husband is annoying me and I can’t wait for the next recruiting trip! But today, in this moment, I’m ready for a slow down.

Have a safe, happy weekend all!

Family Politics and Football

 

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Most coaching families get a pass on family politics on account of they don’t live near family. Don’t get me wrong, there are PLENTY of politics within the team family and the coaching family, but if you’ve ever navigated family politics, those are the absolute worst. While the Coach and I are SO blessed to be able to coach in our hometown, it has it’s occasional downsides. One of them is the proximity to family drama.

Recently, we had a family member who had a health crisis. A fairly severe one at that, but they were moved to a much better medical facility several hours away and had wonderful doctors. This person also has a spouse, several adult children and a teenager at home. The spouse, who is my sibling, was understandably worried and upset during this ordeal. They have some other job change things and some family issues of their own in this mess, so the stress levels were quite high. Last week, my in-law had surgery and our niece gave birth to a little boy. I was texting my sibling getting updates on how the surgery was going and mentioned the latest news I had on the baby. BAM. Never heard from them again. Now my updates are coming from Facebook, texts and calls are going unanswered and my dad hasn’t even heard from them. Today, there was a Facebook post letting everyone know they’re home and that this experience has shown them “who their true friends and family members are.” Well then.

Here is where my snarky ecard comes in. In a 1:30 am phone call from my sibling, it was suggested but not outright asked that I should travel to where they live, about 7 hours away, and care for the house, help get it ready to sell and make sure the teenager got to school. When I didn’t take the bait, things got testy. I finally explained that I can’t just pack up, leave for 2 weeks and expect that things will be normal in my world. My husband works, no joke here, over 100 hours a week. He goes in for practice twice a week at 5:00 am and most nights, only comes home long enough to see our girls off to bed before he goes back to finalize the next day’s practice scripts. How is he supposed to manage that, get our children off to school, soccer, gymnastics and all the other things that occur during a day? It’s simply not fair and completely unreasonable to ask him to shoulder that load. Likewise, I couldn’t take my children out of school for 2 weeks, have them fall behind and miss their activities. And then there’s the tiny matter of my job and the fact that my boss and his wife are due any second with their first child. Couple my perceived uncaring attitude about their situation and the faux pas of updating the baby news last week, and I’m sure that’s why nobody has heard from them, save for a few Facebook updates. I could go on and on about why this frustrates me, but I think you get the hint. I hope you can also pick up the sarcasm in some of this. 😉

So, friends, if you find yourself in the family drama situation, take a deep breath. Understand that most people, even family, don’t/can’t understand what we do week in and week out. Don’t take it personally if they get offended because girls’ weekends and fall weddings take a backseat to tailgates and soccer games. It’s part of life. Prioritizing family events (even if it’s not blood family) over the other stuff doesn’t make you a bad friend, it makes you a good wife and parent. And, at the end of the day, you can only do so much before you’re a raving crazy lady who is so stressed and overwhelmed that you give yourself a breakdown. Take it from me, that is NOT a fun place to be! This weekend, take a minute, smell the fall air, take walk, kick around some leaves and just enjoy what God has given you. Have a blessed weekend, all!!

PS, that last paragraph was as much a pep talk for me as it was for y’all! 😉

Let Them Be Kids

If your kids have ever been in sports, I’m sure you’ve seen parents that maybe take 6 year old soccer just a little too seriously. I’ve always tried really hard not to be that mom. I’m super competitive and I want my kids to do their best, but I understand that they can’t always win or always be on the best team. Most of the time. However, I would never, in my wildest dreams, imagine calling out a league that my child was participating in because something didn’t work out in their favor. Which leads me to the background of this post.

Our football program also runs a youth flag football program. The teams are broken down by grade and school and they play each other’s grade-level teams. They’re half field games on our college field, flag rules and the coaches and refs are our freshman players. Parents pay to enroll their kids, but it’s also a fundraiser for our scholarship program so it’s an important part of what we’re doing on multiple fronts. It’s great for the kids, big and small, and it’s a fun afternoon for the parents. This past weekend was week 3 and so far, very few hiccups have happened. A couple of jerseys didn’t find their owners right away and a coach here and there has been late, but the games have gone without a hitch, only a couple of minor injuries (first and second graders are as graceful as a baby deer on ice skates sometimes!) and overall, it’s been a great 3 weeks. Until today. We have a Facebook page to keep the parents informed and post photos, scores, updates and other info. I post scores from the games on Sunday nights. This week, I forgot. I remembered it last night, after working all day, soccer practice, play auditions, running through the rain to grab take out dinner and finally settling on the couch at about 8:30. I input the scores and went on about my night. This morning, I awoke to a NASTY comment from a parent. He was upset about a call during his son’s game, which his son’s team ultimately lost. I replied, nicely, that he needed to bring these things to our attention when the problem arises so we can take care of it and please not wait 2 days. He responded with more anger and nonsense, which triggered other parents to post, in our defense, that there was no way for everyone to see everything. This gentlemen was insisting that I should have noticed this particular play. What he doesn’t realize is on any given Sunday, there are 207 kids, 60 of our players and who knows how many parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters, etc. on our field. I’m lucky if I remember MY name by the end, let alone a single play during a game.

Now, do I think he should apologize? I think it would teach his son a great deal if he did. Do I expect it? No. In 5 years of doing this, he’s certainly not the first parent who has taken exception to Little Johnny’s team not winning something. However, he crossed a line by ripping his son’s coaches and the ref. These are 18 and 19 year old kids. As much as we would like to say they’re adults, they are tall, hairy children. And they’re volunteering their time, taking away from their studies (or XBox playing, or sleeping…) to coach these kids. If they made a bad call, that’s unfortunate. If they got something wrong, that’s also unfortunate. However, I would hazard a guess that this man, at some point in his life, has gotten something wrong. And if he hasn’t, his behavior here should be a learning tool for him because he is certainly in the wrong today.

My point to this post, which is probably lost in my storytelling, is that at some point, kids deserve to just be kids. The little guy in this scenario is in 1st grade, which makes him the ripe old age of 6 or 7 years old. If his team loses a game or two, is it really the end of the world? Is his varsity coach going to stand in front of him with a clipboard when he’s in high school and say, “Well, son….I’d love to give you this starting job, but I see here that your flag football team lost a game when you were 7, so I have to leave you on the bench?” No. Of course not. So parents, coaches, team moms, whoever is reading this; please. I implore upon you, just let your kids be kids. Let them learn to win AND lose graciously. They’ll thank you for it later.

It’s Baaaaaaccccck!

Happy College Football season everyone!!!

Wow, last night was incredible! College football on all night long, tons of story lines and what a thrill to see someone we used to coach with on a big time, SEC sideline!! I’m so proud of he and his family for their dedication!! I still get goosebumps thinking of our first glimpse of him, staring studiously at a play sheet, headset perched atop his perfectly gelled hair and us scrambling like maniacs for the remote to pause and rewind, just to make sure we were seeing who we thought we were seeing. Maybe that will be us some day, our friends diving for remotes, sending texts that they know we won’t see for hours, calling other friends and saying, “Did you see that?! ESPN, he’s on ESP FREAKING N!” At least that’s how the conversation went in our house last night! 😉 

Although my coach doesn’t kick off for another week (this will be the longest week EVER), there’s another tradition starting in our house tonight; Friday Night Date Night. My coach is the local recruiting coordinator so that means while other coaches are putting the finishing touches on game plans, curling up to watch movies with their families, making their own recruiting calls or enjoying a much deserved night out, we are driving to local games. Some of them are easy to get to since our college rents the field out to the two local high schools, and others are quite the drive. Tonight we’re staying close; only to the next town over. Some nights we drive an hour or more to see 9 man football (yes, it exists!). Truth be told, those are the best games. Most of those kids will never play beyond high school so they leave it all on the field, every down, every game. The entire town turns out for the games as do most of the visiting teams’ town. Sometimes even the opposing sheriff stops by, which always prompts someone to joke about robbing the local bar, liquor store, etc., which is usually met with nothing but laughs because everyone knows that nobody is left in town anyway. Programs are almost always free, candy is still $.25, everybody says hello to you and word spreads fast that a college coach is somewhere in the crowd. We’re not hard to spot. We’re the only people the entire town doesn’t already know and we’re usually dressed in something from our college. By the time we make it to the sidelines, our daughters have already made new friends and are off playing somewhere in a town I don’t live in with people I’ve never met, yet I have fewer reservations about that than I do letting them walk to the school in our neighborhood alone on a Saturday afternoon. 

My coach always makes it a point to go talk to the coaches from both teams after the game, regardless of whether or not he plans to recruit any of their kids. He wants them to at least know he was there and say hello. The players are usually heading to the bus or locker room (or walking back to the high school, depending on which town we’re in) but they seem to walk a little slower when they see my husband coming in that college visor and jacket. It’s not just a PR move, either. Some of the best kids on our team historically have come from small towns that nobody has ever heard of. That was before we were an NCAA school, before the coaching staff knew what a JUCO transfer meant and before our school was internationally known as a topflight engineering school. To say things have changed is an understatement. But you cannot forget your roots. There is talent everywhere.

My girlfriends all laugh at me when I tell them what my date night consists of. Usually a concession stand hot dog, or hot chocolate depending on how cold it gets, a small town diner for dinner if we get lucky and arrive before the game. If we don’t get there early enough you would be surprised how many gas stations in the middle of nowhere have amazing sandwiches after everything is closed! What they don’t see is the time our family gets in the car. The memories my girls are forming that very few kids in the world will be able to say they have, the conversations that happen on the way to and from the games. Some weeks, it’s the only uninterrupted time we get as a family. We catch up on our weeks, fill each other in on the things we’ve all missed or sometimes we just tell silly stories and jokes and enjoy each other. No television, no social media, just family time. It’s time I know I won’t always have and it’s time I know is far too precious. So tonight, I will enjoy whatever crazy dinner I get, I’ll watch with great intensity the young men playing before me whom I have never met and I will settle in to the comfortable Friday Night Date Night routine that I’ve missed.

Have a safe and happy Labor Day weekend, everyone! Be blessed!

Whose Right is Right?

My husband and I got into a debate recently. Recruiting season recently came to it’s culmination around the country with National Signing Day. Thousands of athletes have chosen their home for the next 4 (or however many) years and coaches are excited about their futures, or at least say so on paper.

I can’t even recall now how the topic came up but we began to debate how much the NCAA, a college or any other governing body should be able to require of the student-athlete. Specifically, his concern was their medical records. Working in the legal field, specifically with Plaintiffs, I initially had a HUGE problem with allowing the NCAA access to these kids’ private records. We debated it off and on over a week or so, my position never wavering. Then last night, he reminded me of an incident that happened several years ago during 2 a Days. It was the first day of practice and it was hot, as it often is in August in most parts of the country. The coaches were running the players through drills with each coach at his own station. During my husband’s station, a brand new Freshman suddenly collapsed and began convulsing on the field. Paramedics were called and he was rushed to the hospital. When his parents were finally reached, they found out that the young man had a heart condition and had suffered heat strokes in the past. The player did not tell the coaches any of this because he was not required to. I’ll never forget the fear I heard that day when my husband wasn’t sure if that young man was going to make it or not.

Reliving that moment changed how I thought about this topic. Yes, their records are, and should be, private. But players are notorious for not revealing potentially harmful information. Nobody wants to lose his scholarship and finding out that a player is not as healthy as he represents is a good way to do just that. There has been a HUGE push to be extra careful with concussions in football but where does the player’s responsibility lie? Can they lie to their trainers and coaches about how many concussions they’ve had prior to coming to college? If that player later suffers from a debilitating disease, what role has he played in that? I agree we HAVE to protect these young men….but the coaches also have to protect themselves and their schools too. Knowing how horribly our situation could have turned out, what may have happened if that player had died on the field that hot August day, makes me think of this in a different light. If the trainers had known that this player was susceptible to heat stroke, he would have gotten more water breaks and more rest. If they had known he had a heart condition, they could have watched him much more closely. Maybe it would have happened anyway, who knows. He is fine now, that’s what matters, but that was a terrifying moment.

So what’s the solution? What should the school, the NCAA, the team doctor, the trainer get to see? Should each player be required to submit to a complete physical, EKG, MRI, x-rays and the like before they can sign? Or should schools continue to take the word of an 18 year old boy who wants desperately to play college football to be completely honest with them? Sure, some are. Most aren’t. And it may cost someone their life. And that…..that is a tragedy that can definitely be avoided.