When Everyone Knows Your Dad

When our sons experienced their first cross-country move, it turned their lives upside down in numerous ways. It was the first time in their lives. They were known first as “the coach’s kids” and discovered that living in the shadow of their’s dad’s public profile carried a list of unspoken expectations. I know that may sound odd, but they were born in a town of 7,000 people, and we have made it a point to get out and about and participate in as many town events as possible.

They met a variety of people, and of course, they always had a group of college students around to play with. Since our sons were always quick to make friends, their social circle stretched pretty broadly. They were comfortable with their surroundings since they had only attended one small elementary school for their whole lives where teachers care about the kids and get to know them. It was easy to understand how our kids believed everyone around them knew them. When they walked around and said hi, people would respond by saying hello and often used their names.

After our move, our schedule was much different. We met a lot of people. But we lived in a larger area. The college worked hard to promote the shift in football program by holding a press conference, print blitz and even filmed a tv commercial. These things gave the public a sense of comfort in knowing Ordell was, but it is obviously one-sided.  

One thing our family was not quite used to was people approaching our boys that we had not met, speaking to them, and knowing their names. As a result, one of our kids became quite shy during this move. I think for him, in particular, it is nerve-wracking when he has no idea who is speaking to him, and yet they seem to know a lot about him.

One thing I learned about living in the south is that those who chose to speak to our boys were polite. However, those who spoke to our sons rarely asked them anything about themselves. Every conversation revolved around their father. As a parent, I’ve tried to help my kids maneuver this situation with grace and caution.

We have also talked about how everything we say and every way we act represents our family and our school. Our coaches’ kids know to extend a firm handshake, smile, and respond while looking someone in the eye. They also know that beyond a hello they don’t need to answer any questions they don’t want to and can ask to be excused from the conversation.

When we experienced our second cross-country move our older son held onto his anonymity for about thirty seconds. The school counselor introduced him to every teacher, administrator, and student as “our new coach’s son” as she walked us around the school on his first day.

He couldn’t contain his disappointment. In no way, is he embarrassed by our family, however being a coach’s kid can limit who chooses to engage you in conversation. Especially when your dad also works in the district. Life isn’t always easy when you live in the shadow of your dad’s public profile. But it also has some perks such as walking down the hall to have your dad pick up that assignment you forgot when he runs home for lunch. 😉

Curious to Learn More About Raising Coaches’ Kids?

Lessons from the Sidelines front cover final

As the wife of a football coach, Beth Walker encourages women whose families are in the public eye to pursue their own callings even as they support their husbands’ careers and ministries. Through her personal stories as well as interviews with other women who are also living just outside their husbands’ limelight, Beth shows it’s possible to do both.

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on February 14, 2015, and has been updated in December 2021 for freshness, accuracy, and completeness.