When I interviewed for my position on the coaching staff for Freshmen Football the biggest point I stressed was how I didn’t want the presence of a woman to change any aspect of the program, most especially for the players. As a mother of sons I felt strongly that boys need male-centered environments where they can act like boys. (In other words, farting out loud is always acceptable.)
I can safely say my gender hasn’t amounted to much in terms of change. There have been a few additions, like the word ma’am,
and blinds for the coaches’ office inside the locker room.
(Unfortunately the blinds don’t block out the smell.) On the field I am
not much different from my male colleagues; I yell, I wear a whistle and
I carry the play book. Like them, I sweat, get tired and lose my
voice. I’ve spent the better part of the season believing we were almost
the same, except for one key difference- what happens at home.
It’s fair to say that my male colleagues don’t start laundry when
they get home from Saturday morning practice. Nor are they responsible
for meal planning for the people who remain at home while they’re
coaching. They’re not worrying about buying gifts for assorted
relatives, signing school forms (for their own children) and packing
school lunches. I doubt they’ll stress over holiday planning (it will be
here before you know it) finding time for a mani/pedi or the affect of
all that sun and sweat on their complexions.
Sometimes I look at my fellow coaches and I feel a bit envious
because I suspect their wives have released them from a myriad of
household responsibilities. That may or may not be true. While their
responsibilities at home may differ from mine (let’s face it, I don’t do
yard work) they, like me, have left a trail of undone, need-to-do and
want-to-do tasks in their wake during football.
One area where I know the guys and I suffer equally is in family-life
balance. There really is none during football season. We coach five
evenings a week and on Saturday mornings. We arrive home exhausted,
smelly and sometimes cranky, depending on what went down at practice.
For me Game Day is a fourteen hour affair- eight hours of work ,
followed by the team meal, the production of players getting dressed in
game attire, warm-ups, a possible bus ride, more warm-ups, the pre-game
pep talk, the game, half time, the mid-game pep talk, the second half,
the post-game talk and finally a bus ride back to school. I get home
about 9:00 p.m. having left the house at 6:45 a.m.
Two weeks ago The Better Half was out of town on Game Day. I saw Son #2 for a total of ten minutes, five in the morning and five when
I arrived home. His dinner was whatever the $8 cash I had in my wallet
could buy him that night, since I had neither the time or energy to
prepare something. In truth, he was likely thrilled to go grab fast
food, he’s sixteen after all, but that’s not the point.
To his credit The Better Half has recalibrated his expectations
during football season. I don’t cook during the week anymore, but I am
expected to supply the food needed so others can. I also don’t do dishes
at night when I come home from practice. Sometimes The Better Half
forgets my schedule and asks me out to dinner on Friday night. There
is no going out to dinner on Friday night because after my team’s practice, I
head to the varsity game. (Friday Night Lights baby!)
I didn’t become a female football coach to make a statement about
gender roles. I did it because I love the game and working with kids.
My male colleagues and I have equally sacrificed to be on the field
with our players. They may not be worried about the laundry, but I’ve
learned they do worry about what’s suffering in their personal lives
while they’re on the field.
Exhaustion, it seems, is an equal opportunity condition.
Is it all worth it? If you need to ask you haven’t been paying attention.