I love this picture. It was taken earlier this season at our first game. It was a heartbreaker of a loss. We were ahead most of the game and lost in the last seconds. Regardless of the outcome, the crowd was thrilled with the progress our young team had made. We stood on that field optimistic about the season ahead.
Athletic seasons are one of the least predictable things I can think of, and ours has been just that. Injuries, deaths of family members, and common young team challenges have all reared themselves. It’s been frustrating, exhausting and at times exciting. It is an interesting thing to have the majority of your family’s income determined in part by 18-22-year-old men.A coach can prepare their players, call all the right plays and still lose their job as lack of execution factors in on the field each week.
Thankfully, progress has many layers to it and even when the scoreboard doesn’t reflect things clearly, evidence of momentum is still present.That’s part of what is going on in this picture. A time set aside to point out the positives after a game, win or lose. This doesn’t take away from a time of study and correction. It simply includes the positive with the negative.
Although this picture reveals a snapshot of the season for the football team, it’s not what draws me to it. What I love most about this picture is us. Ordell and I holding hands after a hard loss. As a coach’s wife, my life has many uniquenesses. The autumn weekends are filled with travel and football games even when that means saying no to a family function. It’s always my choice to stay and support my husband. It’s always my choice to spend the weekend traveling instead of relaxing at home. My presence by my husband’s side is always my choice, and I joyfully make it.
In the midst of the season, it can sometimes begin to feel as if my presence isn’t enough. It is so hard to watch one you love have to carry a heavy load, and coaching always includes one. College football coaches are concerned with much more than the weekend record. My husband tracks each of the 100 plus player’s GPA, class attendance and grades. Study hall times are just part of the plan to support academic successes. Recruiting also takes a significant portion of each week’s focus year round. With hundreds of schools to choose from high school seniors have a level of expectation that includes frequent contact. Leadership and character development also play a key factor in adding to the pile of burden all of our coaches carry. My husband has surrounded himself with coaches who agree with his conviction to impact his players. To live life as an example of Christ is a key part, but not enough. Coach talks without evidence of evolving player character are unsettling in this football program. College is a pivotal time in the life of a new adult. Students are preparing for their future, many spreading their wings of independence for the first time. It is statistically one of the highest times when people turning away from God. With the team theme of living successful and significant lives, the burden is carried by Ordell and his staff to teach and reinforce living a life that includes integrity, humility, commitment and hard work. Whether our players choose to follow Jesus or not, they can still decide to live a life that has characteristics that align with those Jesus modeled. Those characteristics also happen to the ones most attractive to managers and spouses.
My instinct is to want to help carry the burden of all that goes into leading a football program, to help where I’m able. My desire is to lighten the load, but that’s not possible in this situation. If a task could be delegated, then more than five hours of sleep might be a regular occurrence. It’s not necessarily an option for any wife to help carry the burden of their husband’s job, but when that job is an all-consuming daily sometimes, hourly, situation it can be hard to ignore the fact all you do is pray and offer your presence.
I love this picture because it reminds me that sometimes my presence is enough. Listening, encouraging, commiserating, supporting. These actions are all encompassed by my presence.
How do I know this is a helpful thing for my husband? Because in situations where the burden is mine to carry Ordell’s presence is a comfort and strengthener for me. In the past few years, I’ve discovered presence is a key component to keeping our marriage strong.
It might look like a sacrifice to an outside observer. The commitment to be present is a sacrifice in some ways, just as any choice to do something means saying no to something else. As a coach’s wife I see it as part of the deal I signed up for when I married Ordell and I’m thankful for the chance to support my husband, even it if simply means holding his hand in a hard time, because it also means I get to do so in a great time as well.