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The Lo-Down: The Art of Balancing Coaching and Family Life
Photo Credit: James Wooldridge

The Lo-Down: The Art of Balancing Coaching and Family Life

October 15, 2019

The Lo-Down topic this week is near and dear to my heart. It is something that I have struggled to come to terms with my entire life. It is something I have had to deal with for as long as I can remember. There are days when I accept my reality and there are others when I have a hard time wrapping my head around it. Having a father, husband or brother as a coach isn’t easy, especially at the collegiate level. So, today we are focusing on the fine line of balancing the chemistry of the team, so the team is successful, and the family at home, so it is happy. 

Now, I want to make this clear: By no means am I saying that this is what every coach’s team or family looks like. Each one is different, and everyone’s experiences are different. Coach John Cook is one of the most competitive and one of the hardest-working coaches I know, so that is probably a significant reason his teams are the way they are and our family life is the way it is. 

From a young age, I remember there were times that my dad was absent. He rarely took me to or picked me up from school. He wasn’t at every soccer game, volleyball match or basketball tournament. He didn’t always make parent-teacher conferences and he definitely didn’t pack my lunch every day. (Thank goodness for that!) Due to his own practices, matches and traveling, there would be times when I was growing up that I felt like I would go a week or two without seeing my father.

On the opposite end, I can’t imagine how he felt. Having to miss parts of your child’s life that you will never get back and it is all because of what you do for a job. You care deeply about both, but can only pick one at times. You want to support your family financially, but also personally. And you want to give your all to your team, so they will respect you and play well for you. I don’t know how coaches balance all of that, or how Coach Cook did it, but from what I have learned it takes a special kind of person and mindset.

Fast forward to when I became a little older. I finally started to see why my dad does what he does and understand why he couldn’t always be present. I would look forward to the small gestures; a kiss on the forehead in the middle of the night when he got home from a long road trip, spending time with him at practices or up in his office after a match. I began to really appreciate the meaning of family dinners and I would cherish each moment when he was able to sit down and have uninterrupted time with us. Even though watching video wasn’t one of my top three favorite things to do, I would sometimes stay up late with him at night and watch old matches or different plays from practice in slow motion. If that was the only time I could get with him, I would take it. If you think of the flip side, he probably appreciated all the times I would come to a practice or watch video with him. His two worlds collided in those moments and I like to think that is what brings him true happiness. 

Another big hurdle you deal with when you have a family member as a head coach at a prominent program is the media and occasionally the fan base. There will be times where either one will say something negative, something that isn’t true or something that didn’t happen, and you can’t do anything about it. You just have to let it go in one ear and out the other. There have been plenty of times where I have wanted to stand up for my father, defend him and his legacy, but those are the times when it is best to just stay quiet. I will always know the truth, I will always know what goes on behind closed doors, I will always hold information that the media or fan base doesn’t have. At times that information may make a difference in that storyline or that argument on Twitter, however, that still doesn’t mean it is right to go and use it. Usually these instances happen more often when the team is losing games, so we have been blessed that Husker volleyball has been wildly successful the last twenty years.

Now, no matter how many times he wasn’t at a volleyball match or a family dinner, I love my dad more than he will ever know. He made it a priority to be there for our big life events and that is good enough for me. In my opinion, that is without a doubt what matters most. I will always support his passion for coaching and have his back no matter if he wins or loses, if he coaches another twenty years or another two years. That is what you do when you are family, especially if your family member is in the crazy, unpredictable, constantly-working world of coaching.

I would like to dedicate this post to all of the other coach’s families who have had to endure the ups and downs, the moves across the country, the negativity, the positivity, the winning and losing, the close games and the blowouts. It doesn’t ever get easier, you just learn how to cope with everything as you go. Eventually, over time, you see the difference your family member who is having on these young men and women and that is what makes it all worth it at the end of the day no matter how tough of a day it was. 

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