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. ❤

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Booyah

If you are a sports fan who grew up watching or listening to sports, you’ve no doubt had a broadcaster or play by play announcer who impacted how you hear and see sports today. Vin Scully. Harry Carey. Pat Summerall and John Madden. Howard Cosel. Bob Uecker. Bob Costas, sometimes with Bob Uecker and Howard Cosel. For me, one of those iconic voices was Stuart Scott. He started at SportsCenter in 1993 when I was a kid living on a sports island in our little state. Situated in the upper midwest, we got the Minnesota Twins, Minnesota Vikings, Denver Broncos and Nebraska Cornhuskers games. As I got older and our cable provider expanded, we also got TBS and WGN so we also got to see most of the Braves and Cubs games. When the Colorado Rockies expanded into the MLB, we got them too. NBA games were on sporadically. NFL was on Mondays and Sundays. Saturday was the Huskers and Notre Dame and on occasion, one or two other games. I don’t think I saw a hockey game until I was in junior high school. There was no Sunday Ticket, no Center Ice. National TV deals were a decade away. I had never even heard of the Internet and if I was talking to my friend on the phone, I had to step around the corner becuase our phones still had cords on them. If you wanted to know what was happening outside of our regional sports bubble, SportsCenter was the only way to know. Every night, after the Twins were over, my dad would flip to SportsCenter and we would catch up on how the rest of the world was going. And it was good television. There was Rich and Stuart and Keith and Dan. And they did it all, from sideline interviews to studio segments and anything in between. At the young age I was, I didn’t appreciate what a trailblazing moment I was witnessing; a young black man sitting among the white men. What I did know was he made me laugh. You had to pay attention to Stuart Scott because he would throw one liners out at rapid fire pace and leave you laughing so hard you might miss the next play. And there were no DVR’s so if you missed something you wanted to see, you had to sit through the next hour in order to catch it. And that was fine, because Rich Eisen and Stuart Scott together was pure television gold.

Over the years, Stuart Scott interviewed the who’s who of the sporting world, from Tiger Woods to Michael Jordan to his annual tradition of presenting the NBA Championship trophy at the end of the NBA Finals. Some of the most iconic interviews in sports history were done with Stuart Scott sitting across the table. As quick witted as he was on the set of SportsCenter, he was equally as kind and compassionate when dealing with the tricky issues of the day. To that end, his kindness and compassion always felt genuine. He was one of those guys you could see hanging out in a backyard, beer in hand, listening as intently to a friend as he did to Tiger Woods and you never doubted that image. When he gave his instantly iconic and legendary speech at the 2014 ESPY awards after being presented the Jimmy V Award, his speech solidified that image in my mind. He almost didn’t make the trip to accept the award and when he stood, I was shocked at how frail and thin he looked. As he approached the stage, I remember hoping that his smooth voice didn’t sound as weak as he looked. How selfish of me, this courageous man who literally used every ounce of strength he had for those 10 minutes and it was I who was worried about it not sounding right. Hindsight is a beautiful thing, my friends. Any fear I had was dashed the moment he opened his mouth. The words he spoke are going to live on, much like the words of the awards namesake, Coach Jimmy Valvano. That speech will remain a part of sports history forever, long after the memorials are over, after the tears are wiped away and yes, as his memory begins to fade. If you haven’t seen the speech, it’s everywhere on YouTube right now. And you owe it to yourself, even if this is the first you’ve ever heard of Stuart Scott, you owe it to yourself to watch it. The honesty and genuineness with which he speaks, the way he refers to his young daughters and the way he conducted himself, presumably in the face of death, is a testament to how he truly loved life. Hearing the news Sunday morning was like finding out I had lost an old friend.

Maybe this eulogy of someone I’ve never met is a little on the creeper side. I get it. I struggled with whether I should write this entry or not. But in a way, I grew up with Stuart Scott. He’s part of some of my favorite sports memories over the years. And some of my favorite childhood memories, sprawled out on the floor with my dad, peppering him with sports questions until bedtime. And, if we missed one of those famous one liners, sometimes well AFTER bedtime! Perhaps I’m hypersensitive to this because it comes on the heels of losing my brother in law just 2 weeks ago, ironically at almost the exact same age of Stuart Scott, at 48. He too leaves young children along with 2 grandchildren. He was one of the people in this world to whom I was closest and his death has hit me hard. So, I can’t explain why I chose to write this. I know this much: Life is bigger than sports. Nobody personified that better than Stuart Scott. I will miss his voice, his wit and his ability to make me laugh. He was as cool as the other side of the pillow.

Losing. In Real Life.

Sports is an AMAZING distraction. For a lot of people it’s a few hours in a week where you can kick back, relax, spend time with friends and family and cheer on your teams or root against your rivals. It takes you away from the pressure and stress of everyday life, work, family things, etc. But sometimes things happen that nothing can fix. No distraction is enough to recharge the batteries, give you new perspective or relax you.

2 weeks ago, my Thursday started out very normally. I had played rec league softball the night before, chatted with my teammates and some of our spouses. Specifically, I play with 2 ladies whom I have known a good number of years. One of their husbands was there and we had a fun chat about camping, being adults, reminiscing about our younger years, just talking. We had all gone our separate ways and the next day, we all went about our business. At about 8:45 am, I got a call that would rock me to my core and literally change my life. My beautiful friend’s 31 year old husband was gone. He had gone to bed and never woken up. I was stunned. Initially, I didn’t believe it. I couldn’t, I had JUST seen this man! He was fine! 31 year olds don’t just not wake up. It HAD to be a mistake. As the day wore on and the reality of things sunk in, I sat at my desk and thought. I cried. I prayed. I called my husband and did all 3. As more details emerged, it was obvious that my friend was in a very bad place. Her husband had been their financial manager of their home and their finances were a mess. Their life insurance had just lapsed, she had nothing in savings and she was now a single mother to 4 children, 1 of whom is a newborn. Worse yet, she was a stay at home mother which meant their income and insurance had gone away with the death of her husband. A group of us immediately rallied around her, setting up a fundraising website, organizing a meal train, child care, yard work and housecleaning, whatever she needed. As word spread of the tragedy, support began to pour in for she and her children. It was overwhelming to see how people we had grown up with, worked with, worshiped with banded together with perfect strangers, friends of friends, co-workers of friends and friends of co-workers of friends to pick them up when they were down. We buried that amazing man on a warm July day in a church full to standing room only. He was so very loved. He is STILL so very loved.

In an instant, a family is forever changed. But it goes deeper than that. Many of us have gone and purchased life insurance policies, my husband and I are taking a VERY hard look at our own finances and there is a sense of closeness among my friends that I’ve never felt before. I had an opportunity a midst all of this to work on some football stuff for the upcoming season and it was so nice to get away from the sadness and the stress. And then I felt guilty because I CAN escape. My friend and her kids will never escape. This is their new reality. So I’ve promised to be there for them however I can. It’s all I can do…I can’t bring their husband and father back and God knows I would if I could. This is one thing that sports can’t heal. But it can bring some sense of normalcy back, if even for a short time.

Here is what I would ask, dear readers: Tonight, before bed, hug your spouse/partner/significant other. Kiss them, tell them you love them. Spend an extra couple of minutes with them. And pray for my friend and her children. Thank you, all.

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.