My husband is now on his third coaching staff since we met. Between all the coaches in those programs, I’ve only seen one baseball coach’s wife involved like I am involved. There has been only one wife who attends all the home games, travels to the away games, and takes time to get to know the players. The other wives may have a variety of reasons for their absences. Some work or find it too difficult to corral their kids. Perhaps their kids have their own events that conflict with the baseball schedule. I’ve even heard a coach comment that he prefers the woman in his life not know too much about his work so that he doesn’t have to talk about it if he doesn’t want to.
Just as other coach’s wives may have their reasons for not being around, I have my own for why I make it a priority to be as involved as possible.
I am here because my husband wants me here. He frequently thanks me for going to a game or comments on how happy it made him when he first spotted me in the crowd. Usually, he will ask me if I will be able to attend an upcoming game or intersquad. We once had a busy week with minimal communication. I almost didn’t attend the intersquad that weekend because he’d never invited me, so I assumed he did not want me there. Meanwhile, he assumed I was too busy and that I would attend if I could because I always did. However, his prior comments about how much he appreciates my presence encouraged me to attend, and, as always, he was excited to see me there.
I am here because many of our athletes are away from home. Sometimes their parents can come to watch a game, but very few parents are always there. Some girlfriends attend regularly or periodically, but that is only a select few who have girlfriends. There are a few friends who come to watch, but for many collegiate athletes, their friends are fairly limited to their teammates since they spend all of their time together. By default, I am one of their biggest fans. I know their names and their stats. I see the work they put in at the weight room and know the hours they spend at practice. I know when a player has an exceptionally good day or finally comes out of a slump. After a game, I can offer a smile, a high-five, a hug, or some words of encouragement if their parents, girlfriends, or friends are absent. Though I did not compete in college, I was away from home. I longed for a family to take me in and offer the comforts of home away from home, so I offer those comforts to others when I can. This is a double-edged sword, though. When I overhear a parent criticizing an athlete whose parents are not there to defend him, I have an urge to pull out my mama-bear claws. Do you realize he threw a no-hitter last week? Don’t you know he hit for a cycle in the last game? I have to remind myself to retract my claws and understand that parents will say things out of frustration, and it is not my place to respond. The best thing I can do is encourage that player after the game.
I am here because it gives me an opportunity to be a part of my husband’s world. A coach’s life revolves around the sport. My husband lays awake at night thinking about work. He breathes baseball. If you ask him about baseball, he will give a long-winded answer, and if you let him, he will talk for hours. It is all-consuming. My life is easier and our marriage is happier if I immerse myself in his passion for coaching rather than compete with it. The more I understand and embrace the coaching lifestyle, the better I can relate to my husband and carry on conversations with him about what is really on his mind.
I am here because I am a student of the game. I will never understand baseball the way my husband does, but I can do my part to continue to learn. Then, when we have those conversations at the end of a long day, I can truly listen and understand. Well, mostly understand. When he asks me for insights—much to my surprise, this happens frequently—I have something to say. It’s rarely something new or innovative, but I know my husband appreciates that I can participate in these conversations and confirm the validity of his ideas.
I am here because it can make my husband look good. Ok, it can also make him look bad. When I am around the baseball team or watching their games, everything I do and say reflects on my husband. I can chat with the school president. I can smile and greet parents. If I am positive and encouraging, that reflects well on my husband. If I gossip or spread negativity, that reflects poorly on my husband and his reputation. In fact, it could cost him a job or prevent him from getting a job for which he is otherwise qualified. For some wives, it is that pressure which keeps them away from games and team events.
There is no instruction manual for coaches’ wives. Nowhere is there a mandate that says wives must go support their coaching husbands. It is truly a matter of preference for what works for each couple in their lives and marriage.
But I am here because I cannot imagine my life or my marriage any other way.