Our position as college coaches requires a great deal of time and effort to fulfill all of our various duties. Recruiting, practice planning and execution, alumni and public affair events, community involvement projects and academic oversight are just some of the more demanding aspects of our jobs. We work very hard to build a successful program -- on the court, in the classroom, and within the community.
Many of us are facing a very trying and difficult time in our life for personal reasons. Our parents, who have given us their love and support throughout our lives, are dealing with health issues that now require our love, time and support. It can be a difficult issue for us, in that we often live and work hundreds or even thousands of miles from our parents. We want to be there for mom and dad, yet we also want to fulfill our responsibilities as a parent, spouse and coach.
My dad and mom have supported me in my athletic endeavors with their presence at many of my games, both as a player and a coach. When they couldn’t attend our games in person, they anxiously awaited a call from my wife or me for the outcome and details of our game. My basketball team was so important to them and it made me feel so loved knowing that they cared so much about my players and me.
My father died of cancer on October 17, 1997. I was coaching at the University of Incarnate Word, a private Division II institution in San Antonio, Texas. My parents lived in Corpus Christi, TX, which was located about 145 miles away. Because of the close proximity of our homes, I was able to visit mom and dad very often and they were able to come to many of our games, often staying with my family afterwards. It was a very good time for me. In all of my other previous coaching positions, I lived more than 5 hours away from my parents. I was given a second chance to get to know my parents in a much better way and I took advantage of it. It was almost as if I was put in that coaching position to better understand my parents and come to appreciate them even more than I thought I could!
Dad died before the season started, but we had already begun our regular workouts. I had asked my team to practice on a Saturday at 7 am so that I could go and see him one last time before he passed away. I was told that he had about one more week to live and I wanted to spend the better part of that weekend with him. However the night before I was scheduled to see him, he died unexpectedly. I was crushed in that I did not get to see him and tell him one more time how much I loved and respected him. This disappointment has stayed with me ever since.
Now my mother is suffering from severe heart disease and does not have much more time with us. It’s early December and we are playing games twice a week. With no major airport within 100 miles, I’ve driven 370 miles (one way) to see her three times in the last six weeks! My wife has made the same drive three times on my behalf to give mom the company she needs and desires! Am I doing enough for her? Should I be leaving the team more than I have been and leave my assistants in charge? With all the pressures of collegiate coaching weighing on you, this can certainly add to the mix! I pray that God will bless her with better health and help her understand my predicament! I look forward to finals week when I can spend another three or four days with her.
She’s involved in a very important fight -- a battle to over come her frustrations and pain and keep fighting to live. I want to be there for her and let her know how much I love and care for her. She has been there for me all my life doing what she can to help me succeed in my endeavors. I need to somehow find more time to be there for her in these tough times she’s going through. I owe her that and so much more.
Unfortunately what I am experiencing is something that many of my colleagues in the profession are also dealing with at present or in the not-too-distant past. There are many aspect of our profession that are not understood by fans and/or media. Sometimes I think it gets lost that coaches deal with the same issues as everyone else.