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. ❤

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.

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.

Wedding “Season”

Well folks, summer is officially upon us! School is out, camps are gearing up, summer workouts have been distributed and coaches and players are scattered all over the country. One of the other ways I can tell it’s summertime is the amount of wedding invitations covering my refrigerator! 2 short years ago, mine was one of them. I’m going to go out on a limb and say mine was probably pretty easy for people to spot too! I never imagined myself as a non traditional wedding person. I always imagined my wedding in a church or outside with chairs lining the aisles, flowers down the walkway and either cute pew bows or mason jars with tealights adorning the way to meet my nervous, handsome almost-husband. Then I got engaged to a coach! Now, don’t get me wrong, our wedding day was the most magical, most amazing day of my life. I wouldn’t change one single thing about it. Well, maybe one. We didn’t do reveal pictures, where he sees me for the first time. But that’s okay, I can live without those considering how amazing the rest of our day went.

Let me back up. Coach and I were engaged in February of 2011 and didn’t get married until June of 2012. Lots of time to plan, right? Not when you lose 4 months to football!! And it did NOT help that everywhere I thought would be perfect was out of this world expensive. Seriously, how does anyone afford these places?! Just as I was getting good and discouraged, my hubby came up with a solution….get married on the football field! My reaction? Um, no. Who does that? Who thinks that’s even KIND of cool? Nope. Not happening. So we went back to doing it my way and the clock kept ticking. We had an engagement party, set a date, sent save the dates…no venue. I didn’t want to decide on dresses or suits for the wedding party until we found a venue and forget about flowers or anything else. I was getting desperate. Finally one day I decided to see if there was ANY way I could make a wedding work on a football field work, just so I could shut my fiance up about it. Turns out, it’s not such a crazy idea! I didn’t find as much as I would have if I was getting married on a beach or in a “normal” location, but then I started to get excited….if we had a unique location….I could do unique things! I begrudgingly admitted to my then-fiance that he was right, it wouldn’t be so bad and instantly became “the coolest wife ever!”

After I stopped being stubborn and started thinking outside the box, planning got SO much easier. I found my dress almost immediately (PRO TIP FOR BRIDES TO BE: Don’t be afraid to get creative here! I got a bridesmaids dress, ordered it in white and ordered the sash that came with it in one of our wedding colors. Total cost with alterations: $220!!), coordinated the wedding party and started on the detail ends. We ended up having a friend who is crafty make our invites. They looked like game tickets, complete with a perforated edge. Then, we made up a “season ticket” type letter that outlined the wedding day schedule and read like the type of letter you get with season tickets. Those were HUGELY popular among our friends. The most-heard reaction to them? “Yep, this is SO you guys!” And honestly, your wedding is supposed to be about YOU as a couple so that was the greatest compliment we could have gotten! We mixed in other details as well; the ring bearer carried a football (because I forgot to buy a pillow), we got married smack on the 50 yard line with chairs and, yes, benches serving as guest seating and we even got ready inside the locker room. Our photographer took my cue and most of our pictures tie in with our theme; from the guys down in a 3 pt stance to us ladies holding “Team Bride” signs and megaphones.

We carried the theme into our reception where an amazing baker friend of mine made us a 3 tier cake with a scoreboard, football field and a baseball on top (coach used to be a baseball coach) and it all looked like it was floating on a bat. All of which was edible. Don’t ask me how it tasted, I forgot to eat any!! Our centerpieces were whiteboards with football plays drawn up on them and we ran through a paper banner that my bridesmaids surprised us with the day of the wedding. SO many little details that made our day amazing, and I’m sure I’m missing a TON. The best part was we asked so many of our friends to be a part of our day. My friend the baker, one of my husbands oldest friends (and fellow coach!) married us, his former quarter back was our DJ, another friend catered, my friend drove 12 hours to be our photographer….the list goes on.

So for any of you brides (or grooms) to be who are serious sports fans but who are worried about bucking traditions, my advice to you is to BUCK. My wedding day was NOTHING like I had imagined it was going to be growing up. And I am SO glad it wasn’t. It was by far the best day of our lives together and to this day 2 years later, our friends still compliment us and talk about it. Sports themed or traditional, that day is YOUR day. Make it the most magical day of your lives!!