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! 😉

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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!

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.

March Madness

I was planning on making this blog all about Spring Football practices and all the fun that goes with it. The warmer weather, longer days, spending time outside, some Spring Game tailgating tips, etc. Then our football team spent morning workouts outside in the snow and that kind of dampened my spirits. As I type this, there is a Dodge Challenger trying to get up the hill out my window. It’s not going well for him. The sad part is the snow is only now starting to stick and this hill isn’t THAT steep. Good luck, friend! 🙂 

So, back to the post. Since it’s decidedly NOT spring football weather outside today, I thought I would change it up. Another passion in our house is the NCAA Basketball Tournament, known as March Madness by most. This year has been particularly brutal if you’re a high seed. I’m sure if you follow the tournament or tried your luck at winning a billion dollars from Mr. Buffett, you know how this tournament is unfolding. Madness doesn’t come close to describing what’s going on. Ratings are through the roof, profits for the tournament are up and money is rolling in. As I was watching Duke lose to Mercer on Friday (know where Mercer is? I didn’t. I had to look it up. The Mercer Bears hail from Macon, Georgia. The more you know….) someone who was also watching the end of the game made a comment. He said, “It’s tough to remember that these are kids.” It was an offhand, almost afterthought comment but it gave me pause. We have this discussion during football season about a half dozen times a season. Especially when the major football conferences head toward post season play. People are shocked when this defensive back or that guard gets arrested for something stupid, or gets suspended for a half for a violation of team rules. These kids are just that….KIDS. They usually come to school at 18, some of them have never been away from home and now you’re thrusting them into (in the case of a major DI program) a HUGE spotlight and expecting them to never screw up. That pressure is unimaginable. Most people I know couldn’t handle it, myself included. If I had lived my life under a microscope and had people dissecting every bad decision I made at 18….well, let’s just say they would have had plenty to talk about!! Whether it’s basketball, football or some other sport, these are children. Legally, they’re adults, but they are really only big children. Some of them grow up fast. Can you imagine playing for an NCAA Championship at 21, having thousands of fans screaming for or at you, jugging practice and classes, being known everywhere you go, being criticized for every mistake you make? Wow. No thank you. I get annoyed when I’m stopping at the store for milk and someone asks me how the team looks if I’m in a hurry, there is no way I could handle what these kids do. 

So what is the Madness in all of this? The heart pounding finishes, the buzzer beaters, the last second put backs, watching the post game victory dances or the fact that we are entrusting a multi-billion dollar industry to a bunch of teenage kids who, to this point, have basically made one major life decision. They know (or should) what they’re getting into, I get that argument. They shouldn’t sign with the Kentuckys and Dukes of the world if they aren’t ready for the pressure, I get that too. But let’s not forget as we watch the Madness unfold, for every jubilant locker room and charged fan base, there are tears being shed and jerseys being put away for the final time by a 4th year senior whose one goal in life was to play college basketball. He’s putting that dream to bed for the final time today and entering the “real world” with the rest of us. And yes, he’s still, more or less, just a kid. 

Being Mom

I’ve written this blog from the point of view of a sports wife because I think it’s a side that doesn’t get enough attention. Our role is ever-changing and NEVER boring! Today, I get to write from the mom’s perspective. Our youngest daughter is preparing for her first gymnastics meet ever. We started her in gymnastics when she was 3, at the persistence of my husband’s grandmother. Sadly, she did not live to see her great granddaughter’s love of the sport, but we always remind her of that connection. Gram saw real potential and talent in her and was so excited when we told her she would be starting her lessons. I know she’s watching, but we wish she was here.

As my daughter has been working on her routines over the last many weeks, I have been in awe over how hard she has been working and how much determination she has. She just turned 6 and has already been invited to compete. I had reservations at first, because in my eyes she’s still my baby. She begged me to let her compete and I made her promise that if we decided it was too much, that she would back off. I have not regretted allowing her to pursue her dream. I didn’t have a clue what I wanted at 6 years old. She does. She wants to make her gym’s TOPS program and eventually, earn a spot to train at the US Olympic facility in Texas. She knows this at 6. It blows me away how grown up she can be. And then she tells a joke she learned at school and launches into a 10 minute giggle fit and I remember that yep, she’s STILL only 6!!

Now that the meet is only a couple of days away, I am getting nervous. I wonder if this is how our football moms feel. I’m making a mental checklist of things I need to remember (Team leo, check! Warm ups, check!), obsessing over what I need to do at home to make the place look somewhat presentable for my dad who is going to check on our animals and reminding myself that we’re only going to be gone overnight, I shouldn’t freak out this much. 🙂 It’s so much harder to be the mom. As the wife, I know what preparation has gone into things, I have listened to the scouting report all week and although they are like my boys, they are not MY boys. This is a totally different feeling. It’s scary but it’s exciting. I’m trying to embrace it and enjoy it and NOT panic. 🙂

Reality Check

I got a nice gut punch this morning. By way of background, a former player who we had asked to our home for Thanksgiving dinner last year when he couldn’t go home and had nowhere to go, who had been a very positive influence in my children’s lives, decided not to come back for this season and school year. Now, I have no idea why he made this decision. I’ve wondered, sure. When we saw him last May he was excited to come back and finish what the team had started. Over the weekend, a mutual friend of ours on Facebook had commented on a post he had made. Curious, I clicked on it. What I saw made me almost sick.

The post that our mutual friend had commented on was a bit of a rant mixed with some nostalgia about not being able to play on Saturdays and opining that others were taking advantage of his hard work and blood, sweat and tears to make it happen. Following that were comments from friends lending support. It was toward the end of the comments that he had chimed in with anecdotes about how “unprofessional” the coaching staff was and how “unfair” the program here had been to him. I was immediately upset. Yes, the program was overhauled last year but he was a part of that overhaul. And yes, some players did not play as much as before, but that’s what happens when a new staff comes in.

Now, I know that I am overprotective of my husband’s job. He works hundreds of hours a week, sees his family as much as possible and works his tail off. The same goes for the other coaches on the staff. Of all the staffs we have been on, this is by far the best we’ve had. The family aspect is very close, both within the staff and on the team. Parents have told me they appreciate the family feel and players have made it clear in exit interviews, recruiting trips, etc. that they feel the family aspect of the team is one of the main reasons they play here. Which I think is why that posting caught me so off guard. Especially considering this young man had fit the mold so well. We truly had embraced him as part of our family and seeing him say those hurtful things for the world to see stung. It stung more than it should have and much more than I had expected it to.

Now that I’ve had some time to digest and step away from it, I know there are 2 sides to this. I have no doubt he felt that something had happened that was not fair. I have no doubt that whatever it was probably wasn’t as bad as he perceived. That’s human nature; we blow things out of proportion that in reality aren’t a huge problem. I also have no doubt that better communication on both sides probably could have resolved the issue. It’s too late for all of that now. Regardless of his comments, I will always consider him part of “the family”. I’ve had hundreds of honorary sons over the years and he will always be one of them. I will continue to cheer him on in life and in football. I don’t know the story nor will I probably ever know and that’s okay. It really is.

What this moment taught me more than anything is this: Open communication. Always. Talking out your problems is key. It’s a lesson most of us could probably use on a daily basis. For myself, I need to take things like this far less personally. Whatever happened probably had nothing to do with me or my children. I need to separate myself and understand that this is not the first time, nor will it be the last, that a player leaves and has mean things to say afterward. Decisions should never be made in an emotional or angry moment, yet that’s when we as humans seem to make the most drastic of them. So despite the fact that this was not the way I had hoped to start my day, I am going to embrace it, make it a teaching moment, put it aside, pray for him and his continued endeavors and continue on with the season. We can only change what we can control. And this I cannot.

Be blessed, all! What is your personal teaching moment for today?

It’s A Family Thing

My husband has a policy that he never lies or hides anything from his players. I wholeheartedly endorse this policy as we have the same policy with our own children. So when the phone rang at 4:30 yesterday morning, I knew we were going to have a day of explaining. As it turns out, my father had suffered a heart attack and was in the ER. That was all I knew as I dressed as fast as I could and scrambled out the door. As I drove to the hospital, I prayed for a positive outcome and strength for my father and my family. After  a fast procedure, it appears my dad is on the mend and is doing very well. After several hours of waiting, pacing, drinking coffee and watching bad morning television, we were finally able to see him. Although he was groggy and didn’t remember much, he was cracking jokes and laughing. That alone brought tears to my eyes! Although I spent the morning with my 2 brothers and sister in law and was in constant contact with my older sister, I was craving a different kind of family. I stopped at practice before heading in to finish some things at the office and instantly, I knew I had made a good choice. Why I chose to stop there I can’t say. As soon as I explained what was happening to the head coach (he only knew my dad had been rushed to the hospital and nothing more), he assured me that this was “only football” and that whatever my husband needed to do he supported 100%. We are SO blessed. This team has a game in 10 days and they only opened camp last week. Many coaches would have been sympathetic but expected my husband to be all hands on deck, which I would have understood but wouldn’t have necessarily liked. My husband had missed morning meetings in order to care for our children while I was at the hospital and had informed the players before practice what he knew at the time. One of his position players came out and sat with me, told me they had prayed for us before practice and gave me a big hug. The other coaches all hugged me as they walked by and my phone almost instantly began to ring with words of support from wives, past players and others at the school. Anyone who says a football team is only a team has never been a part of one. Yesterday filled me with such gratitude and faith and it gave me the strength to keep moving and stay positive. It was exactly what I needed in that moment. I am forever grateful for this different kind of family.