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 teams 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 weight room, 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 nothing 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 the 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 GPAs, poor class attendance, and bad behavior 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 success. 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 has 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 in offering my support some times better than others, but my intentions are always genuine. How do I know this is 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 commitment 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 a 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 means 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.