Tag: coaching life

The Value of Being Present

The Value of Being Present

picture says 1000 words

I love this picture. But not for the reasons you might expect. This photo is from 2016 and someone took it after a heartbreaking 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 that young team made from previous seasons. We stood on that field optimistic about the season ahead. As optimistic as we felt after this game, the season ended up being one that broke our hearts in many ways. 

Athletic seasons are practically impossible to predict.  This particular season included season ending injuries, deaths of family members, and common challenges young team encounter. It is an interesting faith practice to have the majority of your family’s income determined by 18-22-year-old mens’ ability and willingness to prepare for a football game. Coaches can prepare their players, call all the right plays and still lose their job due to lack of accurate or excellent execution on the field each week.

Progress has many layers, only a few of which the scoreboard reflects. The evidence that momentum is present is something coaches measure on the practice field, in the weightroom, and in team meetings.  I remember the feeling of joy this night held as well as the ache for our team, wishing they’d had the W they truly fought hard for and deserved. But that’s not why I love this picture.

I Love This Picture Because it’s Us

There is very little to say after a hard loss. Nothing will ease the frustration. But one thing I can do is be present and this photo is my reminder that those moments matter.

As coaches’ wives we know our lives have unique aspects. For fall sports this means August thru November our weekends revolve around football games, weekends out of town, hosting people for game day, and even sometimes saying no things like family functions or church events. These days I’m either cheering from the sidelines where I pull double duty as team photographer or cheering from home while I take a weekend off to relax at home. Either way, I’m cheering on our team the best way I can that week. My presence by my husband’s side is always my choice. I love cheering on our team each week, but more than that, I delight in the opportunity to let this man I adore know win or lose I’m always his biggest fan.

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. Coaches focus on much more than X’s and O’s and that W/L record. Player’s with low GPA’s, poor class attendance and bad behaviour may face game suspension. Each school sets different factors in these areas along with the guidelines from the conference requirements.

Coaches’ Carry a Heavy Burden

Study hall times are just part of the plan to support academic successes. Recruiting takes a significant portion of each week’s focus year round for college coaches. Helping to prepare players and parents for the recruiting process starts with Juniors and continues for Seniors.  With hundreds of schools to choose from high school seniors have a level of expectation that includes frequent contact, but don’t always meet the criteria coaches are looking for; this can lead to challenging conversations about accurate perspectives.

Leadership and character development also play a key factor in adding to the burden many coaches carry. Ordell works hard to surround himself with coaches who agree with his conviction to influence players using football as a tool. Regardless character development is a multi-tiered effort these days and players need mentors who can build personal relationships with them on and off the field.

To live life as an example of Christ is a key part, but not enough. All surveys and studies whether religious or secular report the same thing about Generation Z authenticity is vital. MCCP says, “This generation grew up with reality TV stars, candid photos of celebrities, no make-up selfies, and vloggers. They are used to behind-the-scenes access. Everything generation Z have been exposed to creates an expectation that they can see behind the curtain and get the real story. And this extends into every realm of life.”

Mentoring athletes on and off the field takes time and intentional relationship building.  Consider this quote from Rethinking how to pastor the ‘connected’ generation “Although misunderstood in some ways, younger generations don’t simply want to be consumers of society; they want to be contributors. As we learn to disciple young adults in their own context, we need to cultivate curiosity, encourage intergenerational engagement, and lead them to understand how the gospel transforms all areas of both their own lives and the world around them.”

As my husband’s partner I desire to lighten the heavy burden my husband carries as he leads a football program. My instinct is always to look to help, but I understand that’s not always possible. If he could delegate a task during the season so he could catch more than five hours of sleep on a regular occurrence he would. But when his job hits the time of year when demands are all-consuming daily sometimes, hourly, delegation isn’t possible. 

Presence is Valuable

I love this picture because it reminds me that sometimes my presence is enough. Listening, encouraging, commiserating. These actions are all encompassed by my presence. I succeed offering my support some some times better than others, but my intentions are always genuine. How do I know this is a helpful? Because in situations where we have opposite roles and the burden is mine to carry I rely on Ordell’s presence for comfort and to keep me steady. 

As we strive to balance a committment to prioritize our marriage and mutually support each other as we each pursue our callings, our presence matters. Whether we’re looking out at a crowd to find familiar face, exchanging a glance after a frustrating call on the sidelines, or simply standing shoulder to shoulder after a hard loss or an amazing win, the consistency of our presence FOR each other matters.

It might look like a sacrifice to an outside observer. The commitment to be present is a sacrifice. Saying yes to any choice to do something means saying no to something else. As a coach’s wife I see value in supporting my husband both for our marriage and ministry. I’m thankful for the chance to support my husband, even it if simply means holding his hand in a hard time, because standing next to him in hard times mean that I’m around to celebrate the great times together as well.

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on October 24, 2016 and has been updated with fresh content.

Team Traditions: Dad’s Day

Team Traditions: Dad’s Day

dads day game thoughts

Last month Ordell and I attended the U of I vs. Rutgers game. It was my first football game at the University of Illinois and I have to admit I was not prepared for the emotions Dad’s Day would bring.

The Illini Dads Association was founded in 1922 and is believed to be the oldest in the nation. As the Dads of the cheerleaders and football players took their places on the field to lead their sons out onto the field an announcer began to explain what was happening and all I could think of was the dads of the seniors.

How many years of games had they cheered in the bleachers? How many hours spent waiting to pick up their children from practice or listening as a child rehashed the day? How many checks did they write over the years for team fees? How many pairs of shoes, extra clothes, and bags did they buy?

Now it was all ending in a few weeks. I couldn’t help but wonder if those dads were wishing they had taken a few more vacation days to attend those early games. Were they wishing the years had gone differently or were they grateful for the moment?

As the cheerleader’s dads dutifully took their places next to their daughters they were so enthusiastic, working hard to keep the crowd engaged while also enjoying their view on the sidelines of the game. They did their pushups after U of I scored and even attempted to somersault out of their positions.

The best part by far was the traditional Can-Can dance performed by the dads during the halftime show. Check out the full show here.

As a coach’s wife, I understand how invested many parents are in seeing their children succeed. The University of Illinois seems to have found a beautiful way to honor dads with long-standing traditions that are lighthearted and joy-filled that also have unique sentimental aspects each year as different families are featured.

The hardest working dads on the field that day were those of the cheerleaders, who luckily for them, took the second half off. It was a delight to see those fathers their sons and daughters with that familiar gleam of pride on that Saturday. Congrats to the University of Illinois for continuing a beautiful tradition that honors parents, athletes, and tradition. It was an enjoyable afternoon.

Coaches: Surprise Your Wives

Coaches: Surprise Your Wives

Coaches: Surprise Your WIves

Years ago I could tell that my husband was in need of a break, but as I looked at our calendars it was clear finding time was going to be a challenge because as a newer head coach he was still trying to figure out how to balance work and family. I packed our bags and booked a hotel in St. Louis and arranged for one of the coach’s wives to meet us at Elijah’s Upward basketball game on Saturday afternoon.

Instead of heading home we moved the car seats over and headed into St. Louis for dinner, dessert, and a restful evening. The next day we took our time heading back after grabbing our favorite Trader Joe’s goodies and for years I’ve known that if I ever do something like that again I need to figure out a way to pack Ordell’s laptop. It was the one thing I couldn’t get into the car without raising suspicion.

He Finally Surprised Me

Last month Ordell planned a 24-hour getaway for us that was a complete surprise for me and I have to admit I was pretty impressed. Not only did he pull off a complete surprise as far as the initial getaway, he also had additional surprises along the way.

The timing of this surprise trip was similar in that I’ve been buried in a project that has taken a lot of my focus and at the end of a very busy and extremely long football season (June-October) we needed time to have fun. Although we’ve been diligent about our weekly date nights on Wednesdays even those grow stale after a while when you are lulled into a routine of exhaustion.

Our weekend included exploring a new spa, a gluten-free bakery, middle eastern food, and some shopping. Ordell planned every detail of what we did while we were away focusing on many of our favorite things. Everything was preplanned so I didn’t have to make any decisions on than choosing a menu item. Similarly to when he was feeling exhausted in other areas and needed time away, this was a huge part of what made our time away special.

So here’s my suggestion coaches, surprise your wives.

  • Be intentional with a plan.
  • Take care of all the details from the hotel, to the date, to what will happen with the kids while you are away.
  • Prepare a budget so there aren’t any regrets when you come back either.
  • While away serve your wife. Let her sleep in if that is something she never gets to do.

I have to admit, the most shocking part of this surprise is that both our boys were in on it and neither one spilled the beans. I’m not sure if this is a good thing, because them not being able to keep secrets well has been a great comfort of mine. However, now that they are old enough to help arrange rides to and from school, I know this was helpful for Ordell.

I’m also deeply grateful for our local family members who were willing to stay overnight with the boys and carpool them around. It takes a village to pull off a surprise when you are busy, and in both our cases we needed help to make sure our boys were in good hands so we could relax while away.

If you don’t have family nearby consider swapping with a friend. I’m sure you will find that someone else will happily hand over their kids so they can have a kid-free night if you offer!

Start Somewhere

Is an out of town overnight out of reach with time or budget or both? There are a ton of ways to surprise your wife and show her you are intentionally thinking about the things SHE loves without leaving your house.

  • Send flowers
  • Show up with a babysitter and take her out for dinner
  • Arrange for someone to clean the house while you are out for the day
  • Take a day off work and send the kids away for the day

So coaches, take time every once in a while to invest in your marriage by surprising your wives. I guarantee you will both appreciate the effort.