Football Wife: Reluctant Cheerleader
I met my husband in December 2010, right after he finished the football season. Our courtship moved quickly and we married eight months later in July 2011. While we dated, he told me stories about coaching and he tried to make me understand what the time commitment was all about. I thought I understood, but I was so naïve.
Our first season involved a lot of tears, a lot of arguments, and I wrestled with resentment. I attended all the home games, and I cheered as loud as I could with everybody else, but the games left me exhausted- especially after I had worked all week. I don’t like large crowds, and I am a total introvert, so I had trouble connecting with the other coaches wives and girlfriends.
My resentment was compounded by anger over the fact that my was gone all the time, and the small stipend he receives for being head coach is laughable. The anger wasn’t about money. It was about the fact that no one seems to recognize how football takes over his life. And mine. I felt guilt about my anger and resentment, and that didn’t help.
Our second season was a little bit easier because I wasn’t blindsided with shock. I at least knew what to expect. Now we’re heading into our third season, and I must admit I still struggle with all these emotions.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m immensely proud of my husband and what he does. I love that he loves the game, his players, and his coaching staff. He is passionate about his work, and not a lot of people can say that.
I can’t pretend to have it all figured out. But I feel like I’ve come up with a couple strategies to help get through it. Perhaps some of them will be useful for you, too.
During our first season, I tried to attend too many football events. I went to the early morning Saturday scrimmages, and a late-night scouting trip. I went to the coaches-only “after party,” the end-of-the-year awards ceremony, and the Thursday night team dinners. It was too much. I was exhausted and miserable. I cried all the time, and I was awkward at football events because I was so overwhelmed and tired.
So during our second season I only attended games. If I was feeling particularly tired on a game night because I had worked all day and then cleaned house, I stayed home and rested. I decided I had to take care of myself or my bitterness would increase.
Football is complicated. I don’t always understand it. Sometimes I think my husband should be managing his team a certain way. But in reality, I don’t have a clue how to run a football team. I used to think he was unorganized, or just didn’t care that his schedule was inconvenient to us. But when I feel that way, I’ve learned to ask why (in a nice tone, not accusatory) he does things the way he does them. He can usually explain it in a way I’d never thought about. I probably still won’t like the schedule, but at least I’ll understand why things are the way they are.
Get Outside Help if Necessary
After our first season, we briefly saw a couples counselor together. She helped me express some of my frustrations in a way my husband could understand, and she helped me understand how my bad attitude was negatively affecting my husband. My frustrations didn’t disappear, but at least I felt like my husband finally understood, and he knew I was working on trying to change.
These days, we each occasionally see a counselor individually and he helps us work through some of the anxieties and negative emotions that come up during football season.
Take Care of Yourself
It’s so easy to let things like exercise, proper nutrition, and adequate rest go out the door during football season. I struggle so much with this, and I don’t even have children. I can’t image how mothers- especially mothers who work outside the home- fit everything in. But if we want to be at our best emotionally, we need to take care of ourselves physically. The goal is not perfection, but creating healthy routines that can get us through stressful times.
We have to learn to be easy on ourselves and on our husbands. I try to give my husband the benefit of the doubt, and I remember all the pressure that’s on him. When I mess up and have a bad attitude about football, I’ll ask for forgiveness and move on. There’s no value in comparing myself to the other coaches’ wives, or beating myself up with guilt.
I’ve realized that I will never be a coach’s wife who has the entire team over for dinner at my house. I won’t spend my spare time baking treats for the players, and I sure won’t be doing the laundry when the team washer breaks! I know many of you do those types of things, and I think it’s fantastic that you support your husband that way. But I’m happier (and so is my husband!) when my involvement is limited to showing up for most games and being a sounding board for my husband when he’s home. It works for us, and I’m glad we’re figuring things out- slowly, but surely.
What about you? Are you hands-on or hands-off when it comes to your involvement? How have you handled seasons of resentment and anger towards football?