The role of coach’s wife ought to come with a disclaimer about our rights: “You have the right to remain silent. Everything you say can be used against your husband’s job.”
I’m an introvert, so this is usually easy for me, but I am also kind enough that if someone starts talking to me, I will talk back. This is when I need to be careful. I need to be careful because I have my own opinions, and they are not always things people want to hear. I know which kids on the team work hard and which ones slack off at practice or in the weight room. I know who has a great attitude and who can bring down the whole team in a matter of seconds. I know who has the best grades and who is struggling to maintain eligibility. I know who has the skill and mental abilities to help the team win and who struggles in one or both of those areas.
And as an avid eavesdropper, I know to be cautious of others who may be eavesdropping. Anything can be misinterpreted, and anything can be passed along to the wrong person. College baseball is a very small world, and it is even smaller when your team is at a small school in a small town.
I’ve learned to stick to a few rules:
Be positive. This is not always easy. I have to say things like, “From what I’ve seen, your son works very hard and has improved a lot this year.” (Sometimes a lie.) But I’m thinking, the kid starting over him is significantly better and works even harder. To the parent listening, this is interpreted, “Your son should really be playing more.” To the parent who is eavesdropping, this is interpreted, “I think this person’s son is better than your son.” Even kindness can backfire.
Be guarded. There are a lot of nice people out there…at first. Some stay nice, but many are just petty. At the beginning of a season, everyone is generous, but as the months wear on, I’ve found that many are nice because of what they think you can do for them. Parents make donations and volunteer their time when the need arises. They rub elbows with the coach and his wife. They offer to host a meal for the team in their home if they live locally. But if their son isn’t playing as much as they like, they start demanding what they believe they are owed. So we have to maintain a distance in these relationships. We have to assume everyone has an ulterior motive. [Sorry to those who don’t.]
Support the whole coaching staff. It does not matter what I think of other coach’s decisions and styles. As a coach’s wife, it is not enough for me to support my husband and build up my husband. I must build up all of the coaches and support all of their decisions. No one needs to know if I think our back up third baseman is better than our starting third baseman. If someone else says it, I cannot even nod my head, no matter how much I agree. It is the coaches’ decision, and I am here to support them.
Don’t show off. I probably know as much about baseball as some of our parents, and much more than most of our parents. But I must not let people know. These conversations bring the temptation to say too much, and something is bound to be taken the wrong way. So I feign ignorance. I’ll even say, “I don’t know,” when I really do.
Be nice, not friendly. A coach’s wife who comes across as mean or rude is just as bad as one who actually says mean or rude things. So it’s important to smile and say hello, ask the polite “How are you?” It’s even appropriate to discuss players’ future plans for school and/or careers. A coach’s wife must show she cares, but mostly, the conversations should be kept short and generally avoid the topic of baseball. Since this is difficult at a baseball game, it is best to avoid friendliness because friendliness invites conversation. I try to be nice enough that people will think well of me and highly of my husband, but I try to limit it there.
Most importantly, when in doubt, just close your mouth.