When The Coach Stayed Home
They say you never fully appreciate what you have until it’s gone. The current pandemic seems bent on teaching the world this lesson, and no one is exempt. I recently saw a statistic that said our government projected only 50% of Americans would abide by the strict social distancing guidelines, but they are now saying upwards of 90% of us are following them. Most of us are ready and willing to make sacrifices to protect human life, yet as we scramble to stay relevant and to trade the relational portions of our lives for virtual substitutes, we are also provided a unique opportunity to reflect, to question what we have taken for granted in life and to look at people around us with a different set of eyes.
My husband is a high school basketball coach and athletic director of 22 years. Sports is our family’s livelihood, and for better or worse, a large part of our identity. To say his job is all-consuming is an understatement, so with sports on pause, it almost feels like life is on pause. Each of our 4 children has literally been raised in a series of gyms across the state of Oklahoma. Bouncing balls, buzzers, and whistles sang them to sleep in infancy. Family vacations have taken place during one 2-week window in July. On the nights he didn’t have games, he would be on the road scouting, and on a rare night off, he would return from practice and pitch in with dishes, bath-time, homework, and bedtime, fielding texts and phone calls in between. He would then spend the rest of the evening catching up on emails, scheduling, reaching out to players who need extra encouragement, and watching film into the early hours of the following day. This was our reality for 22-years, and although we share our coach literally 24-7 with a rotating group of young men every year, it’s the life we love – the life we have chosen.
And now, we sit here without a choice, settling into this current normal – a normal that includes our coach at home. We find ourselves having more family dinners at our own kitchen table, playing board games, and shooting hoops in the driveway. And it is nice to have this time together, a gift, really, that we will always cherish, but we also find ourselves talking a lot about our team, about our guys, about the pain of the season that didn’t quite end and the possibility of summer ball and next season. We wonder about our seniors and mourn their losses with them. We watch old college games on TV, as coach fills his playbook with more ideas for next season. In the loss of our normal, in this time with our coach at home, we understand how thankful we are for this coaching life.
We have seen Americans giving up choices right and left the last few weeks of this pandemic. We have seen the doctor’s family quarantined away from him indefinitely so that he does not chance exposing them to this virus. We have seen our hairstylist without income. We see teachers working longer hours trying to deliver virtual education. We have seen exhaustion from those on the front lines of this fight. We see people; we see past the service they provide us, and we see them. We see their families, and we see, maybe truly for the first time, all they sacrifice in their daily lives to provide services for us. Whether or not we think of a job, industry, or business as essential or non-essential, to someone, it is extremely essential – it is their livelihood; it is, for better or for worse, a part of their identity.
So as my family waits and dreams for next basketball season, we know that when it comes, we will step into it a little differently. We will be more thankful for the choice to be a coaching family. We will be more thankful to those around us in all of their different roles. We are all being taught a precious lesson in these strange and difficult times; be grateful, and don’t take others for granted. Because you never truly appreciate what you have until it’s gone.
Jill Schenk is a coaches wife of nearly 18 years, a teacher, a coach, and mom of four. She values the intrinsic qualities sports develops in athletes of all ages and levels and has a passion for communicating these values and their life-long benefits.