Dear Football Mom,
I’m a coach’s wife at a small college and gossip, good or bad, travels quickly throughout our campus. In our close-knit community, rumor had it that my husband was getting fired at the end of this past season. He’s the head football coach. He has NOT been fired, at least not at this time. The rumors of him getting fired, however, soured the attitude of his staff, assistant coaches, and just about everyone associated with our program. A few assistants have already jumped ship. It is making recruiting extra hard. Is there anything I can do as his wife to help stop the bleeding?
Whoa. Thank you for reading our column and trusting me with this very sensitive situation. I’ve been asked some tough questions before, but this kind of goes beyond the stadium uprights. I’m not in the habit of telling wives of coaches, or for that matter, coaches what to do—unless that is, I’m in the stands at a game yelling mercilessly—as if I think I know something they don’t.
In this case, though, cheeky chatter put y’all in a pickle, all right. Hopefully, together we can unscrew the lid and share some ideas before they all go rancid. Remember this right-here, what I’m about to share, is no tried and true recipe.
I suppose your husband had a sit-down-fireside chat with your AD (athletic director) and/or the chancellor/president of the college. If not, I suggest he line up a meeting with these cats soon. Making sure everyone is executing the same game plan to stop the wagging tongues and false fabrications should be the first course of action. That’d be my number one priority, anyhow.
The second suggestion may be to initiate an all-out gathering of the troops: assistant coaches, equipment guys, trainers, support staff, administrators, professors, janitors, or any other college personnel that could have added to, or been privy to, the cock-and-bull stories. Here is where you come in.
I would think about inviting all these folks regardless of position, if they work at the college, invite them. Host a sort of Spring Soiree at your home before the spring scrimmage game. Wouldn’t that extinguish any embers floating and stop the innuendos hovering over your program? By bringing the staff, together and breaking bread, especially a home dinner, should establish some much-needed camaraderie.
“A house divided against itself cannot stand.” –Abraham Lincoln. That means college football teams, too. Hosting the party on your turf, at your home, will set the stage of good faith effort on your part, and perhaps nudge the program forward with newly forged friendships. It’s hard to talk about somebody behind their back while eating their food.
No program can put together a winning team when naysayers and negative attitudes are feasibly the first folks parents see once visiting campus. When recruits come to the university, it’s in everyone’s interest to host these players and their families like they were royalty, regardless of how staff’s feels about their coach. Take that or not. A unified front and solidarity at the center of your program puts it ahead of others vying for talented players. Also, all staff should reek of graciousness, even those colleges above the Mason Dixon Line, or West of the Mississippi.
Third, when recruits do come on campus, I suggest being honest and upfront. “Hey, we’ve got things that need to get straightened out here, and we’re working hard on that. We need YOU to help us.” Being honest is always best. You may be surprised how that works to your advantage. I’ve never seen a competitive player yet who didn’t love a challenge.
Of course winning, next season won’t hurt either.
Dear Football Mom,
Our high school booster club is running short of money and parents’ participation. We’ve had some losing seasons the last few years, and no one is very motivated to help. I’m the president of our club and wanted to push for a fundraiser for our spring practice game. Only a handful of parents signed up to help. What should I do?
You start with the handful. Thank your lucky stars for the handful. Do what you can with what you’ve got. Maybe it won’t be the big-banger-moneymaker you envisioned, but fall will be here before you know it, and you’ll need help then too. Groom the ones who do get involved to accept more responsibility come game season.
Whatever you do, don’t let them see you sweat. Change your attitude, and be positive even if it kills you. Smile and have fun. Ignore the ones who don’t help or won’t help, and when they see y’all having fun; they’ll know they are missing out on something special. Maybe then, you’ll have more parents who’ll want a piece of the action.
Be creative. Instead of a “sign-up” sheet, make it a “Parents/Grandparents Participation Sheet.” Maybe offer free window decals for parents who work concession stand. You get the idea. Make it a privilege for parents to participate in their son’s booster club. After all, it is a privilege.
Attitude is everything. It’s like I told a preacher once long ago when he complained in the pulpit about the ones who weren’t there. After service I said, “Hey man, preach to the ones who “are” here, and forget about the ones who “aren’t.” What do you think we are? Chopped liver?”