Being a high school football coach isn’t just an August to November, or if you are lucky, December, job.
There is so much going on in the offseason, that it is a 12-month position. With that comes little time for home life.
Ask any married coach on the sidelines and he will tell you it takes a special woman to allow him to be a mentor and role model for dozens of teenage boys.
Kevin and Elizabeth Steele
“I can’t even put a rating on how important she is,” Bedford coach Kevin Steele said. “There are always meetings and fundraisers and team building experiences. I am truly blessed to have a very supportive and understanding wife.
“It is a balancing act for her with our family. I have been coaching 19 years. I wasn’t married when I first started, but I was a head coach when we got married, and this is all she knows.”
Elizabeth Steele concurred. She said they met on the football field and she couldn’t imagine not seeing her husband on the sidelines coaching, even if it is a year-round activity.
“He is so passionate about the sport and is great with the kids,” she said. “When we decided to have a family, we knew it would be tough, but we work together and make sure we have time for family things. Our 9-year-old son goes to practice and is the water boy. Our daughter is a cheerleader.
“Now, we have our 3-month-old son, and he watched his first football game Friday. The kids love watching him coach and being out there on the field with him.
“I would never ask him to stop coaching. I don’t foresee him quitting any time soon. He may coach his own children. Our oldest son just said he wants to coach, too.
“This is all we know. It makes sense for us.”
Bob and Amanda Landis
Somerset coach Bob Landis said his wife Amanda is the most-organized person he knows.
“We have two sons, 10 and 7, and they are both playing youth football, and I am here coaching at the varsity level. It starts with the fact that she comes home from teaching school, and she gets them something to eat and to where they each need to go. Then, when they get home, they have school work. Plus, they are involved in 4-H and there’s a week at the Somerset County Fair.
“Honestly, if she wasn’t as good at doing what she does, coaching wouldn’t happen. She will call and say something happened, but she already took care of it.”
Amanda Landis said it is all worth it.
“We started dating his freshman year of college. He was playing at Waynesburg and it went from there. Heath, our oldest, was 18 months when he took the varsity job at Somerset. We had Hayden three years later. It gets more difficult to manage as they get older, but the boys and I are at every game. They want to hang out at practice and some of the players are involved in some other activities we are as well, so they are good with them. The coaching staff and their wives are like family. We do cookouts and sit together every game.
“I have always been a football person, and I know how much he loves it. We make it work.”
Rich and Kathy Price
Blacklick Valley coach Rich Price called his wife of 33 years, Kathy, his “sounding board.”
“She grounds me,” he said. “Kathy and I talk before and after every game I coach, in whichever sport I am coaching. Before I leave the house, I ask her what kind of feeling she has about the game and she’s rarely wrong. After a game, she will ask why I didn’t call a timeout at this or that point or why did I press when I did. She knows all the players. I can’t do this without her.”
Kathy Price said the thing she’s noticed the most in all the years her husband has been coaching is his maturity.
“Some of the best times we have had are involved with him coaching. He even coached all of our children at one time or another,” she said. “He has been coaching since he was 20, and he has this passion and knowledge. I watched him figure out how to go from being a player to being a good coach. At first, he coached like he played. He had to win and could be in your face confrontational and was stressed out. Then he figured out what was important – the life lessons.
“Rich is an Xs and Os guy. He’s always preparing for a game. And I love seeing and watching all sports, especially how games unfold. He balances his time well with us. It’s not about quantity, it’s about quality.”
Don and Bonnie Fyfe
Shade coach Don Fyfe said it is extremely important to have someone in your corner supporting you and your coaching.
“She is an old athlete and understands how much work you have to put in to be successful,” he said. “She knows when to leave me alone and when to talk to me after a bad day. I’m sure sometimes she wants to give me a boot though.”
Bonnie Fyfe said you have to be a little more patient and understanding as to his state of mind.
“A lot of times, it’s not about our relationship, it’s about football, the team, coaches, games, whatever,” she said. “It’s a different routine this time of year. I try to bring him back to home life and being just Donnie.
“It’s important to have balance and not be in football mode all the time. I make him sit and watch a movie with me or go out to eat.
“It’s nice to have other wives who understand what the guys are going through. You can help each other get through the ups and downs of a season. Although, I don’t know if anyone else is up at 5 a.m. every Saturday morning helping their husband work out the cramps in his legs from pacing the sidelines all night Friday.”
Doug and Joele Paul
Berlin Brothersvalley’s Doug Paul is in his 24th year as a coach. His wife Joele has been by his side for all of it.
“She probably likes the game of football more than I do,” he said. “I love to archery hunt and spend time in the woods. (Our oldest son) Dante is playing in college (Clarion). I have asked myself on more than one occasion recently if it was worth it anymore. She is the one who says take a step back and look at how much those kids look up to you and how much impact you have on their lives. We are still getting to Dante’s games on Saturday and I’m finding ways to get into the woods to hunt.
“She joked the other Sunday, that it would be the last Sunday we would spend together over the next 13 to 14 weeks. But she never complains. Even with (our other son) Isaiah graduating now, she will still be at every game, with her sister, cheering us on.”
Joele Paul said she knows how much he loves the game and the kids.
“I would know if or when he was ready to quit, but I know he has more to give. He still has that fire,” she said. “It takes a lot of patience. There is always something – film breakdown, meetings, kids or coaches texting or calling.
“We raised three children. Plus, there were always kids over at the house because of the boys. We made it work.”
• Windber coach Matt Grohal said his wife Karen is very protective of him.
“On game night, she doesn’t sit in the stands, because there is always that one person who is saying something and it drives her nuts. It doesn’t bother me, but it does her,” he said. “On Thursday nights, I take all the water bottles home and she cleans and sterilizes them. She washes the towels and pinnies, without anyone asking. She is definitely a football widow, as both of our boys are playing football. One is here with me on the varsity team and the other is in junior high.”
• Cambria Heights coach Jarrod Lewis said he never thought he would be coaching this long, but when he asks his wife Alicia after each season if she is ready for him to be done, she says she will support him in whatever he decides.
“She does everything for this family while I am coaching.” Lewis said. “I have a son who plays football and I help coach him too. She gets everyone ready for school. She is very proud when kids thank me after games or after the season or after their career is over. She loves to see the impact I have had on the young men. She’s the mother of our team. She never misses a game.”
• Westmont Hilltop coach Pat Barron said his wife Jenne understands coaching more than most, because she is a coach’s daughter.
“She knows what the job entails and how special it is to me,” he said. “We have had three daughters, and mourned the loss of a son, while I have been coaching. It takes lots of patience and love. And I know as soon as the season is over, I am on dad duty pretty hard. It’s not easy being away from them, but I tell her all the time how much I love her and thankful I am for her.”