by Cathy Allie
I recently read an entry from a blogger who had done a take-off on the old Then God Made a Farmer, and called it Then God Made a Coach’s Wife. I felt my eyes mist over, and I looked around to see if anyone would witness my tears. It was not that I was so moved by the blogger’s words, but I was so hysterical with laughter, I had reached the point of tears.
The beautiful story tells how the wife smiles with pride at her husband as he coaches, greets family and friends at the game, and prays with him over dinner for the success of his team and for his profession. I suppose I have done each of those things once or twice, but the life of a coach’s wife is a little different from my perspective.
Most people assume that it is like Friday Night Lights, where Coach Taylor and Tammy breeze through the season with reckless abandon to win a championship despite romanticized hardships. Or perhaps people were fans of the Craig T. Nelson sitcom Coach, and assume my husband is just a dumb, fumbling jock. Most seasons don’t really end in championships, and most coaches are actually very smart tacticians. Through it all, coach’s wives build a resume and skill sets no one could ever imagine.
High on the resume would be the ability to bite through one’s tongue to keep from speaking out of turn. I have holes the size of craters in mine, but I also have some failures at holding back. I have successfully NOT expressed my opinion to my husband on offensive strategy and special teams play, to 6th grade parents who tell me about the future Division I athlete who lives with them, and to the uninformed friend who believes there is an off-season.
And for the MOST part, I have not replied to the bleacher critics who throughout more than 23 seasons have called my husband everything except tall. A couple of my comebacks to critics would have earned me a sideline warning for sure. I have also had to tell the truth to the adorable, perky girlfriends of the young coaches, who don’t yet realize this life is not for the faint of heart. “Run! Run like the wind! Get out while you can!” I whisper in their naïve ears, as they don jerseys and wave pompons despite the perils that await them.
Also high on the resume would be the ability to pack a car for everything from 95 degree game starts to freezing weather. Once when my husband’s team was deep in the playoffs, there were actually cattle warnings, which to those of us not from rural areas means your cows could die if you leave them out. I can visualize their hooves frozen to the ground as I write, a piece of icy grass cud breaking off one of their molars. But I watched that game from start to finish because that is what coach’s wives do.
I have waterproof clothing, blankets in school colors, blankets with thermal linings, seat liners, cleaning wipes, waterproof boots, extra stocking caps and hand warmers. Likewise, I have cooling towels and fans that attach to cell phones. I have an assortment of seats ranging from cushioned to pop up to canvas chairs, as you just never know what you will need. My favorite football accessory is an umbrella hat. Yep, a hat with an attached umbrella, in my current team’s colors.
On my resume you will also find the ability to double and even triple recipes and use a crock pot to make enough food to feed coaches and their families most weeks following the game. This means my house has to be clean on Fridays, after a full week of everybody dropping clothes and bags on every available surface. Whose house is clean on Friday? It takes away all the joy of making everybody hustle around on Saturday mornings to clean up, like my mom did back in the day.
I never knew my sharp elbows would come in handy, but they are now on my resume, as I have used them in the following manner during football season: to elbow my way into a crowd rushing for seats at the state championship when my daughter was in a stroller, to push my way forward at the meat counter to grab enough pork tenderloin to feed 25, and sadly, to keep my husband awake at church on Sundays, because frankly we love Jesus, but the season is a tiring grind.
There are some perks to being a coach’s wife for sure. You never have to worry about whether there will be enough space on your DVR to record any shows you want to watch because A.) it is already full of games he is recording, and B.) you are home alone enough to be able to watch whatever you want whenever you want. Another perk is exercise. Most weeks I climb the full height of the bleachers to find the one space where when the wind is just right, I cannot hear all the bleacher coaches. My calves are fabulous!
Being a coach’s wife has developed my sense of humor, as well. I crack up at the shirts that say things like Dibs on the Coach, It’s a Coach’s Wife Thing, Mrs. Coach, or Bleachers and Bling, I Wear the Coach’s Ring. No coach’s wife I know really wants to have her identity known. We are just walking around hoping not to be recognized by the smell of testosterone that clings to us from kissing and hugging the coach goodbye that morning so he can head off to spend another 8 hours with somebody else’s kid (this is where a sarcasm font would be so handy).
On a somewhat related note, I have had a recurring dream lately where I am opening my front door, and I let my husband in and introduce him to our daughter. “This is your father,” I say in a Darth Vaderish voice, because he has hardly seen her since Tuesday. She finds it very funny, and he does not.
I also find humor in those moments like during the NCAA basketball tournaments when the camera zooms in on the coach’s wife during a particularly close game or an overtime contest. I just wish they would show the thought bubble above the wife’s head, because I already know her internal dialogue. “Are you serious? Regulation time is not enough time to get this done?” or “I can shoot better than that kid!” or “I cannot remember if hubby’s contract has bonuses for the next round, but it isn’t looking good”.
One of the best laughs I have had about coaching was when once upon a time, a now defunct local sports station did a feature on a coach’s wife, and how it felt to be in the midst of all that excitement. Her husband was having a record-setting, winning season and was receiving accolade after accolade.
She was so cute, and all her kids were dressed in appropriate spirit wear. The interviewer asked her if it felt good to be reaching such a lofty goal. She didn’t miss a beat, surprising the interviewer when she said, “Well, that’s my husband’s goal. I am just trying to get the kids on regular schedule for bed time and get laundry done.” Hilarious! And that was during a winning season. If you want a juicy interview, come see me some time when we are in the throes of a 3-6 campaign.
My second best laugh happened just a week or so ago, when a friend forwarded me a funny quote from Coach Elroy “Crazy Legs” Hirsch, a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and an actor (go figure). He said, “Hollywood made a movie of my life. In one scene, they had me proposing to my wife on the football field. I would never misuse a football field that way.”
My husband isn’t quite as much of a fanatic as Crazy Legs, but when he complained about our annual family picture being taken in beautiful wooded settings or against an urban feel brick wall, I let him choose our next photo shoot location. Once I convinced the photographer that we were actually taking our photos at the football field, she did a great job of capturing the 50-yard line and goal posts for the perfect contrast to our smiling faces.
I have some fond memories from my years as a coach’s wife. When my husband used to have to maintain an old grass field, and sometimes place the white yard lines on it himself, he would strap our daughter’s car seat to the field liner with elastic ties, and the two of them would set off to make the marks. They were a funny and heartwarming, if not janky, sight.
Many of my husband’s former players are now coaches, and I love seeing them in action. Tons of fall Saturday afternoons have been spent road-tripping to see a college game of a former player, and for many years I kept a scrapbook of newspaper clippings which we flip through once in a while. My husband’s glass-half-full-optimist attitude has served him well and made me proud.
At a football field far away, a wife is sitting in the bleachers, smiling down at a coach and waiting patiently for him to look up at her and wave. Dramatic, movie score quality music is playing in the background, when he turns and sees her, and she sheds a tear which she quickly wipes away with a rally towel from the Booster Club. The musical score hits a discordant note as we realize it’s an assistant coach who is waving, and her husband is already in the locker room. Better luck next season, Tammy!
Cathy is a retired public school English teacher and Public Information Officer.