Inspiration Journal Relationships

I Am A Coach’s Wife

Written by Renae Zimmer

I am a coach’s wife. I signed up for it, back when we were young and stupid and didn’t have a penny to our name. I said yes to an awesome guy and yes to being a coach’s wife.

I love sports, that is the beauty. I can follow my husband’s job and cheer on his team. I’m invested.

Some of the disadvantages, however, are seeing the struggles of coaches these days from all levels, but on the high school level, it can be brutal. We have seen the good, the bad and the ugly in the past 20 plus years.

Don’t get me wrong, there are many rewards, too. The student-athletes are the best reward. More often than not, there is a bond with them. Not their best friend, they have enough friends, but a mutual respect. There is also the friendship with other coaches and their wives and families. That is the most rewarding for me. Coaches and coaches wives we have met over the years are the best people we know.

Friends for life.

I see the dedication and hard work from my husband and other coaches as well. The time commitment is daunting and tedious. Up at 5:00 a.m., to work by 7:15 a.m. (oh yes, because he teaches all day too). Practice until 6:00 p.m then game film, game break downs, planning and prep work. Then wake up and do it over again. Don’t forget game nights and traveling to a large city, two or three hours away. Weeknights he is home at midnight or later then he turns around to go back the next day. 

Exhausting. Rewarding. Exhausting.

No one really comprehends the time. A coach’s wife does.

I rarely hear him complain because of his love of the student-athlete relationship and his love of the sport. 

As parents we all want the best for our kids. To be the absolute best. It is tough when they don’t get the playing time, or the position we think they should have. I have been there watching my kids.  Sometimes even knowing they may not be the most talented on the field, but darn it, they are working hard and have a good attitude, shouldn’t that count for something?  Sometimes not.   Welcome to life.

Although we may think we know what is best for our athlete, we don’t. The coaches do. They are the ones, day in and day out in practice who know what is best for the team. Yes—I said team. Not your kid or two kids put together, but a team as a whole. Welcome to reality.

I think we have seen a break down in that trust of a coach in the last few years.  That is my opinion. Coaches weren’t hired to make one individual kid shine like a diamond and get all the accolades, their job is to build a team and a strong foundation for success.

To be clear, I don’t feel every parent that complains wants a coach fired.  There are some  supportive and awesome parents out there.  I am just saying, from my perspective and living through certain coaching storms with my husband, the coaching culture has changed drastically. And, I don’t think it is getting better. 

Why is that?  Why the extra stress. I blame youth sports. It is out of control. Youth sports should provide a solid foundation for learning and skills for the student athlete, but I also feel that it has caused our crazed-sports minded culture to go off tilt of reality. Certain parent egos are out of control. Reliving the glory days vicariously through our kids can be detrimental.

I hear time and time again, “These kids are going to be so awesome when they are in high school, they will be state champions.”  Or this one, “That kid is huge, he will be awesome in high school, Division I for sure.”  Whoa people, let’s pump the breaks just a bit.  I have been guilty of all of the above, but I have had to take a reality check and say, “Oh my goodness, really people?  This kid is in 6th grade,” We are setting huge expectations for them already. Setting them up for failure.

I think it is good to have goals and dreams for your child, but I feel we must align those goals with what our child wants. Clear communication between parent and child are key. I have found that parents may be upset with a coach and in reality the athlete is perfectly happy with their role.

I also think the biggest mistake parents make when they think their kid is a superstar, is pumping their student athlete up early to be the star.  Let’s focus on being a good person, too.  A person that a teacher would want to teach, and a Sunday School teacher would want in their classroom.  And, let’s not forget grades.

Maybe that Division I scholarship is not in the cards for your child.  Let’s be darn sure our kids are focusing on school, good study habits and good grades.  And did I mention, being a good person?  As parents, we want our kids to be focused on being a good teammate and to be supportive, too.

The one thing I am most proud of with my husband as a coach is his integrity. He is a really good guy. A good husband, father and educator. And a good coach. I know my husband has the respect of his students. I am proud of that, too.

Being a good person and a good family man goes a long way in this world. Well, it should. Sometimes it doesn’t. When it doesn’t, when we get lost in the wins and losses and stats and not the kind of person that is coaching your kid, then we are in trouble.  That, sometimes, sadly—is life.

The worst thing for a parent is to question everything a coach is doing. Years ago, my husband was coaching a young man whose parents insisted on watching game film after every game.  The dad would pick-a-part calls, the officials, the teammates and his own child. It just messed with this kid’s head.  Really. By the time the kid hit the floor, he didn’t know who to listen to or what to focus on.  Mentally, he was a wreck. Dad chirping in his ear that he was the rock-star of the team and should be making all the plays and the coaches setting up a solid foundation for a team.

Parents, (and you know who you are) let the coaches coach. Be positive, be encouraging. This is your kid’s experience not yours.

It is darn hard to watch your kid not get the accolades or playing time, but let’s be sure to set them up for a solid foundation in life and not fight their battles.  Let’s focus on teaching them to be a good teammate of life.

A coach's wife gives her insight into the world of school sports, the pressure we put on our teenagers and the exhausting excitement of it all.

About the author

Renae Zimmer

My name is Renae Riddle Zimmer. I was born in Iowa and raised in Nebraska. I am a Midwest girl.

I married my high school sweetheart, Dave Zimmer and raised two awesome kids. Nolan, 21 and Kamryn, 17.

As we approach our empty nest years—we reflect a lot on our life—our kids—and being a part of the “sandwich” generation as well. Taking care of teenagers and aging parents. All the joys and difficulties that are ahead.

We are solid in our faith—solid in our family and we love each other,
support each other. I work a corporate job and travel. My husband is an educator and coach. We love to cook, garden, landscape, watch sports and enjoy our kids activities.

We follow up college-age son as he runs cross country and track for Northwest Missouri State in Maryville, Mo. And support our daughter as she is in the last year of high school . Where did the time go?

16 Comments

  • Excellent… as a parent of two former high school athletes and now D1 athletes, I can attest to Ms. Zimmer’s comments. Parents who think they know better than the coaches are a bane to sports. Our job, as parents, is to be supportive of our children as they learn life lessons. We are there to help them become successful and socially responsible. No good lessons are learned from interfering with the coaches.

  • Renae, your words are the BEST I have read from a coach’s wife. I have been a coach’s wife for 35 years, and watched him coach for 37 years. I completely agree with EVERYTHING you have said. Times for coaches have definitely changed, and youth sports is a big part of that. My husband doesn’t coach the big sports like football or basketball. He coaches girls cross country and girls track. Fortunately for him, the stopwatch doesn’t lie so making choices on who runs is somewhat straightforward. However, he has also had to make tough choices and been criticized from time to time about his decisions. Kirk is also a man of strong faith and how standards. He expects this out of his athletes and models it every day to them. His (and my) frustration over the last few years is all of the things his student-athletes are involved in. Kids can’t just be kids anymore, and some of this comes from the parents. There used to be 4-sport athletes and now everyone seems to specialize. Many honestly beiieve they will be D1 athletes by participating in all these club and youth sport programs. We both are born and raised in Iowa and I am so glad you blog link was posted on my FB page by a friend. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  • I am also a coach’s wife. THANK YOU! I love this post! The only part I don’t 100% agree with is “parents (and you know who are you)”. I think some parents DON’T get that they are THAT parent. And I’m not entirely sure how to help them figure it out. Otherwise, everything is spot on! Thank you!!

  • I have been a coaches wife for 20 years as well. Although our daughter did get a full ride D1 scholarship it was because we sacrificed our life together. He stayed home and coached and I traveled with our daughter. He retired from coaching this year and it has been amazing. He had coached for 33 years and was the winningest coach in his high schools’ history. But because he coached soccer he wasnt recognized. Gotta coach one of the big 3 to be noticed. But the greatest joy he gets is walking down the street and having a young man or young woman come up to him and tell him how much they loved playing for him. I love hearing them walk down memory lane together about some goal in a game 20 years ago. Coaches matter, and so do their families. Be kind to your coach. They are giving up everthing for your child.

  • I am a Coach’s Wife! High School Varsity Head Football Coach! You said it perfectly! You are not alone! Love what you said and how you said it! Nicely done!

  • Great post. My husband is a head football, track, weightlifting (for free) and wrestling (for free) at a high school. We have 3 small children. My hardest thing is how little people know about the time and dedication they put into just trying to make their child a better person not just player, etc. the bond we make with the kids is great, it’s not a life for everyone but he is a great coach and I know he/we make a difference in kids lives for the long run not just their high school career! Happy coaching season everyone ?

  • This was a great article! I am new coach’s wife but my coach hubby has been coaching for over 10 years and throughout the entire time we dated. I agree with ALL of this!! Thank you for this!

  • Wow, wow, wow! Tremendous thoughts! As a high school coach in my 15th year, THANK YOU!!! My favorite part:

    I think we have seen a break down in that trust of a coach in the last few years. That is my opinion. Coaches weren’t hired to make one individual kid shine like a diamond and get all the accolades, their job is to build a team and a strong foundation for success.

  • I would like to give a shout out to all the females who coach and their husbands who support them too. It’s not just men who teach all day and coach the rest of the night. Plenty of us woman do it too and have support behind us too. It’s important to remember that as well. It’s not just coaches wife’s who have sacrificed a lot. Plenty of husbands have too!

  • Wife of a Varsity Head Football Coach too. You took the words right out of my mouth, thank you! My husband was fortunate to start coaching after a long career playing. He often uses the saying “if you do what you love, you never work a day in your life”. But spouses like us know how hard they do work – 80+ hrs a week without a single day off in the season. Many coaches have kids in sports too, so we’re able to see things from “both sides”. We all want our kids to be the best they can be in school and athletics (or music or whatever extracurricular activity they choose). However, like you said, many parents have lost track of the TEAM concept which includes a selfless, positive attitude. It still amazes me how ridiculous some grown adults can behave. It does nothing for their kids, other than embarrass them. Fortunately, from my experience most parents are good, but it’s a shame if the school administration caters to those who are toxic to the program. Still, when I read a note, email, or text from a former student-athlete or his parent thanking my husband for the incredible influence he’s been on their life, it makes it ALL worthwhile.

  • I am the wife of a college head basketball coach and you put into words so many thoughts and feelings I have had over the past 20 years. I takes somebody special to be a coach and somebody strong to be a coaches spouse. They put up with so much from the players, parents, fans, administration, etc… And it trickles down to their support system at home. Thanks for putting your thoughts into the words so many of us want to say.

  • Thank you for saying it! I loved every word! Varsity High School coach’s wife going on 19 years here. So much has changed in this time. The parents used to bring shakers to share and cheer for the team. Now, they cheer for their player without much regard to other parents. I have a great group of coaches wives who I get together before the games no matter where we travel and after home games the coaches and wives come to our home to eat, drink and either celebrate or analyze. That time is safe because these coaches need to know their wives and the other coaches have their backs. The “trophy for all” mentality doesn’t work in high school or life. My husband is solid in his fundamentals: faith, school, family, football. We are a family for sure. Helping each other through it all. Like he says every week….I brought you to Friday night, fellas, now it’s up to you. They respect him and work hard for him. His record of wins and state championships speaks highly to his program, his coaches, players……..and to the wives that back them all up! We are strong, independent, faithful, supportive and productive special women. Thank you for the article!