My name is Caroline and I am a coach’s wife. That’s right, my husband is a head coach of a division II college lacrosse team. If you are familiar with coaching life, thank you for your sympathy and appreciation. If you are not as familiar but you love sports, you probably think my husband’s job is the coolest, smartest career move ever and why didn’t you think of that before getting stuck trading commodities. You commodity traders are right. It IS a reeeally cool job. He* is outdoors and away from the four walls of his office 75% of his day, he truly lives his sport in every sense of the word, he gets exercise just doing his job, he makes a significant difference in the lives of 40 college aged men and he is proud to admit that he does not own a suit.
But if you are considering changing professions to become a coach, you might need to know a couple things about life in the coaching fast lane. So, after 12 years of being on my husband’s sidelines, I am happy to share with you what I have learned about this very unique career choice.
· YES, coaching is absolutely a full time job. In fact, it is a job for about 3 or 4 men in my husband’s case.
· There is never a “down” time for coaches, whether the sport is “in season” or not.
· So, when he is not technically “in season”, what IS a coach doing?
o Recruiting: traveling to watch, meeting with or calling prospective players
o Planning practices, viewing films of other teams playing and writing up scouting reports for his team
o Coaching fall ball (or “off season”) practices
o Doing one-on-one individual work with players which can often take an entire day.
o Spring break planning; that means shipping and handling 40 men plus coaches and trainers
o Managing scholarships and following up with a prospects college application
o Coaching and recruiting at lacrosse camps nationwide for weeks at a time
o Trouble shooting high maintenance parent issues
o Trouble shooting “diva, I need more playing time” players, “did something drunk and stupid” players and “soul searching, maybe I want to transfer” players.
o Acting as guardian, advocate and disciplinarian to all 40 men
· Coaches have a uniform. It may not be a suit, but every shirt my husband wears has the schools colors and logo on it. (Never put those “breathable” coach shirts in the dryer however, it may just be grounds for divorce.)
· Coaches regularly work late nights (evening practices or games) and weekends (games or tournaments); days that he works 9 – 5 are few and far between.
· Coaches are always traveling: to games, recruiting tournaments, scouting other opposing teams, coaching at camps, you name it.
· Coach’s cars are perpetually foul. They are traveling locker rooms filled with stanky equipment, stacked orange cones, grass clippings and clumps of dirt, balls, clip boards, whistles, bunches of camp or college brochures, super stanky shoes and endless food wrappers and coffee cups.
· Coaches need a variety of athletic running shoes: mud shoes, nice recruiting shoes, practice shoes and shoes that match each coaching outfit.
· Coaches are highly affected by the elements being outdoors daily; they must invest in quality sunglasses, value sized bottles of sunscreen, and multiple hats. Coaches up North need every sort of cold weather gear possible.
· Coaches are kind of “into” coaching fashion and get very excited ordering new duds every year; my husband has a hankering for sweater vests and has deemed those “couture” coaching gear. Sure thing, hon.
· No matter how hard a coach works and fights for his team, the bottom line is his job performance is based on the team’s number of wins and losses.
· Coaches are “stand in” parents for each player: They go to the emergency room when a player’s arm is broken. They advocate on the player’s behalf during disputes with campus housing. They get the call at 1am from campus safety when something “bad” (usually involving alcohol) goes down. The coach is held responsible for their players in every way.
· Coaches often plan their families around their game schedule. My children were born (luckily) in late May and June for a reason.
· Coaches perpetually miss their families
· Coaches gossip. A lot. They are always in the “know” about open positions and then call other coaches and chatter endlessly about if this guy goes to that job, that position opens up then “so and so” might try for it but would never stand a chance… And then they all get online and see what the chat rooms are saying.
· Coaches obsess. All the time.
· Coaches are manic, but there is at least a predictable pattern:
WIN = “happy, rah-rah, even shaking hands with the refs, I love my job” coach
LOSS = “dark, brooding, seething, kicking the orange cones and throwing water coolers” coach.
· Coaches are psychologists: When do you yell at your team? When do you cajole? When do you pump them up? When do you scare them? When do you feed their egos? When do you let them cry? When do you kick them out of your office?
· Coaches are excellent public speakers; they have to inspire their teams before every practice, every game, at half time and after the game is over.
· Coaches lose their voices. A lot.
· Coaches don’t always sleep very well.
· Coaches can act. You will be amazed by a game of charades like you’ve never seen before when you watch a coach on the sidelines of a game. So that he isn’t penalized, a coach can tell a ref to put that last call in place where sun does not shine without saying one single word.
· Coaches are never happy with one win for longer than a day. One win is not good enough. A perfect season is good enough. Bottom line. Until then, work harder.
· Coaches don’t pursue this career to make money.
· Coaches are teachers, mentors and make tremendous differences in the men they work with everyday.
And finally, a little bit about my life as a coaches wife. As I write this, I am listening to a podcast of my husband’s team playing in North Carolina. They are up 3-2 and I want this win so badly, I can barely stand it. Of course I want a win for all the reasons anyone wants a win. But truly, I want a win simply so that he is happy. I want him to have that moment when he realizes his players really “got it” and he can feel like all of what I have listed above is really worth it. And during that immediate high after a win, I want him to grasp what a strong and successful leader he really is.
So now the commentators are reporting its half time. During the first half, his team came out excited and ready to play. But the second half they have fallen flat. One commentator just reported that he’s watching Coach run off the field to go speak with his team and he can only wonder what he has to say to get that team back in the game. My heart goes out to my husband at this very moment. So many people ask us both what coaches really do. And hopefully, this about sums it up. Are you thinking up how you’ll write that resignation letter yet? While you are still deciding, truthfully, I hope this stands as more of as testament to exactly what kind of strong, committed human being it takes to coach for a living – as he offers his players his time, his life, and his heart every day on that field. Go Lions.
* Of course there are plenty of coaches who are “shes”, but forgive me if I refer to coaches for the purpose of this post as “he” since the coach I know and love happens to be a fabulous “he”.