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Coaching constraints

Published: Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Updated: Wednesday, July 25, 2012 19:07

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Bill Walker, men’s basketball assistant coach

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The 2000 census chronicled that the American family, on average, consisted of three people.  Coaches at the college level rise at home in the morning — if they began it there at all — leave their average families at home and migrate to the campus where they spend the majority of each day.  Their families, suddenly, expand to 14, 17 or even 66 or more people. Groups of people aged anywhere from 17 to 23 who are, each and every one, students.

At the tail end of a long day in which other coaches, recruits and relatives of both parties skip in and out of this unique family unit, the men and women in the coaching ranks return to those waiting for them at home, where the process of recruiting and planning follows them.

This life seems stressful, chaotic and relentless. And all those things it often is. Yet, when juxtaposed with the love most college coaches hold for their occupation, some discord between the legends of the profession, both good and bad, arises. How is it that one can love such a job while understanding and living with the intense and far-reaching ramifications that it presents and the toll it may take on their personal lives?

Stress in Coaching

"It's a great job, so no one's asking anyone to feel sorry for me or for anyone that's lucky to have a job like this, but it is a huge stress on the family in that it's so public; your wins and your losses are so public," said Bill Walker, assistant coach for the A&M basketball team. "Anybody that's in business or teaching or anything can have good days and bad days, but they don't put them on the sports page or on the Internet where people can say, ‘Hey, that was a win, that was a loss.' My wife, at times, has to pick them up from school and cook dinner and I'm just not there to help, especially in-season. That's when it's the hardest. And the problem too, quite frankly, is even when you are home, you're worried about your next game or your next scout or your next recruiting trip."

Walker has been married 21 years but indicated that, at times, the demands of the job can still frustrate his family.

Recruiting is the tallest task any coach can be entrusted with. Coaches interviewed for this story said that the recruiting ordeal is truly year-round. Walker spent 20 days on the road in July for recruiting purposes, and said that when not recruiting physically, he must keep up with the process at home and at work through e-mail, Facebook and his cell phone.

Nick Toth coaches the outside linebackers for the Aggie football team. In recruiting he maintains an area that spans the south side of Houston over to Austin. He follows players of interest, contacts those being actively recruited, lends his assistance to other coaches and continuously scouts the area for talent.

 

"It is what it is," he said. "They're not long days, they're just abnormal hours. We catch up sometimes Wednesday nights, Thursdays and Fridays."

The 34-year old Toth, who married his high school sweetheart eight years ago and has two young boys, touched on another tough issue with coaches — the hours. While most don't complain about them, they don't have to be prodded much to admit that they are far from normal. He typically arrives in his office around 5 a.m. and sits in meetings concerning various things for the next six to 10 hours.

Afterward, practice keeps him occupied until 6 p.m., at which point he showers and eats — "Maybe." — then watches more film, makes recruiting calls if he needs to, readies for the next day's practice and leaves, arriving home, he said, sometime around 11 p.m.

"The one thing about this job is it's not an eight-to-five deal," Walker, 43, said. "There's an ebb and flow to it. Obviously in-season, weekends are minimally different from weekdays. You're in the office or on a bus or on a plane or at the gym all the time. I usually drop my kids off at school and come straight here, so I'm in the office at about 8:15. Depending on what time practice gets out you can be here 10 or 12 hours a day. If you have a game at night, obviously, you're here ‘til the game's over…you're here for at least another hour or so afterwards."

A semblance of balance

"I get resentful that I have to leave sometimes. I don't unpack my bag that often other than to do the laundry," said volleyball Head Coach Laurie Corbelli.

She has two children with her husband John, who serves as her assistant coach.

"Sometimes I'll see moms walking their dog in the morning or the old ‘raise the kids, make sure dinner is ready'… all of that stereotype and I'd question myself sometimes and say, ‘Am I doing the right thing?'"

The Corbellis are parents of Rachel, 19, and Russell, 16, both of whom grew up as coaches' kids and spent time away from their parents. Corbelli recalls having to find people to watch her children, as both her and her husband would be out coaching and at times against each other. She recalls one moment that she wishes she could have been home during her daughter's freshman year in high school.

"I've told stories of my daughter getting ready for homecoming in her high school years and she called and said she looked so good and her hair looked good and her dress…" Corbelli said.

Corbelli recounted that time spent on volleyball in comparison to time at home during the season is usually 80/20 in favor of volleyball. The ratio narrows to 70/30 in the offseason with recruiting. That time away from home hasn't always been easy, but she says that it has made her children grow throughout the years.

The balance of time from the court to the home proved to be tough but Corbelli says she has found ways to get her mind away from volleyball and to enjoy the time she does have with her family. John is from Hawaii and they're able to visit relatives there for nearly a week of relaxation and time together. For her it is the simple things that keep her going as a coach.

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