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COLUMN from GINNY GRIMSLEY: This Installment / It’s More Than a Game to Coaches’ Wives; Unusual Sorority Shares Demanding Lifestyle

College football fans are watching their teams practice and hoping the new recruits will be game-changers a few months from now. For them, it’s the lull before the fall.

For the team coaches though, there is no lull. As usual, they’re working seven days a week, heading out the door at 6 a.m. and coming home long after the wife and kids have gone to bed, says Kathy (Currey) Kronick, author of Mrs. Coach: Life in Major College Football (www.mrscoach14yrs.com).

“During spring ball games, they’re not home, so their wives are doing everything but playing football,” says Kronick, whose book recounts her years married to Coach Dave Currey. “And they’ll do that, too, if necessary.”

The life of a football coach’s wife is notoriously demanding, so much so that in 1989, the American Football Coaches Wives Association was created to provide “camaraderie, support, information and service.” They share a subculture unlike any other in the United States and, while it can be exciting and rewarding, it comes with many sacrifices.

“His career and the team are the No. 1 priority, no ifs, ands or buts about it. In that regard, it’s a lot like military spouses, but with college coaches, the family lives in the public eye,” Kronick says.

“The wives take care of everything at home, everything, because their husbands are at work day and night, seven days a week. Many wives also work – most coaches don’t make a lot of money. The wives are also expected to attend games, fundraisers and recruiting dinners. Every couple of years, unless they’re really, really lucky, they’re single-handedly packing up the household to move the family across the country because their team lost and their husband got fired.”

In 2008, three researchers interviewed nearly 300 college football coaches’ wives to learn more about their lives. Their findings, Kronick says, paint a portrait of what fans never see when they are cheering – or jeering – the team.

• Wives pray for wins. Every loss can mean the coach gets fired. “So you not only have the stress of being suddenly jobless, but if he’s fortunate to find another job, you’ll likely be packing up the house and kids – without him, he’s gone on ahead – to move to a new city and a new state,” Kronick says. She moved 27 times during her marriage to Currey. Moving so frequently can be an adventure as families explore different parts of the country, but it’s also hard to leave a place where you’ve made friends and grown comfortable.

• July is for weddings, funerals and making babies.  College football coaches are off for the month of July, so that’s when families plan important events. Some couples celebrate their wedding anniversaries in July – whether or not that’s when the couple got married, Kronick says.

• Families must always be aware of the media. “You have to mind your p’s and q’s,” Kronick says. “The media is always looking for something – they want to know the secrets. You also have to be very careful not to do anything that will make your school or team look bad.” All the attention can be fun when the team is on a winning streak but, as Kronick points out, it’s hard for kids at school when everyone’s blaming their dad for the team’s poor performance.”

• Most coaches’ families live on tight budgets. The majority of the families in the 2008 study had an income of $50,000 to $125,000 a year, with nearly 72 percent of the wives holding jobs outside the home.  Most assistant coaches have one-year contracts, Kronick says, so if they’re fired – or the head coach is fired, which means the assistants lose their jobs, too – their income stops.

The life of a coach’s wife isn’t all hardship, Kronick notes. Out of necessity, wives become self-reliant and independent, if they weren’t to begin with, and that boosts self-confidence.  It’s fun cheering on your team, and lasting friendships are often formed among this group that shares so much.

“But in the end, most wives give up their lives for their husband’s dream,” Kronick says. “I couldn’t do that any longer. I needed to pursue my own dreams, and to have a husband I could talk with about them.”

About Kathy (Currey) Kronick

Kathy (Currey) Kronick was married to Dave Currey from 1974 to 1989. He was an assistant coach at Stanford University when they met and married, and later moved on to Long Beach State (Calif.), the University of Cincinnati and UCLA. They divorced in 1996. Kronick, who has a bachelor’s in education of the deaf and a master’s in counseling, is the mother of two children and is happily remarried.