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AFM Magazine

Tuesday Morning Quarterback

The Associate Head Coach in Charge of Real Life
by: Richard Scott
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When coaches approached the AFM booth at the recent AFCA Convention in Louisville, we tried to make a habit of asking the coaches what they wanted to see in the magazine. Some wanted more Xs and Os. Some wanted more technology information. Others wanted career and financial planning.

However, many coaches wanted help balancing their jobs with marriage and family. Meanwhile at a nearby hotel, the wives who attended the convention attended seminars on making marriage and family work in a challenging profession.

Most coaches could care less who Dr. Phil is, let alone what he has to say, so we decided to consult a much better source for marriage advice: Ann Bowden, wife of Florida State coach Bobby Bowden, mother of six (including three football coaches), grandmother of 21 and a gracious lady who knows what it takes to be a coach’s wife.

“For any man to be married, if he’s married and has a family, it’s important to come home to a well-run and orderly home life, a neat house and an attractive wife,” Mrs. Bowden says. “I didn’t say a beauty queen, but somebody who cares about herself and her home and her family and knows how to keep things running smoothly.”

Some of today’s younger coaches and wives might think her ideas “are old fashioned,” but they have been proven over time and work at any level of coaching.

Bowden spent one semester as a freshman quarterback at Alabama before he returned home to marry his high school sweetheart Ann Estock. Bobby transferred to Howard College (now Samford) in Birmingham. They celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in 1999, so she must know something about surviving in this business.

“It would be interesting to see what football would be like if it was just the men and just the coaching and no women were involved,” Mrs. Bowden says. “I’d have to think things would be very different. There are so many things we do to create good morale on the staff. Let’s face it: if mama ain’t happy, nobody’s happy.

“I’ve always told Bobby ‘I don’t care how many hours you spend in the office as long as you need to do it, but if you’ve got your feet propped on the desk telling jokes and having fun then you better get your butt home,’” Mrs. Bowden says. “I’ve seen marriages break up because the wives were terribly unhappy and couldn’t take the fact that their husbands were never at home and that coaching seemed to be their entire life and the family, the children and home didn’t mean near as much as the wives thought it should mean.”

The Bowdens make their relationship work because they’re partners – at home and work. If Mrs. Bowden had a title beyond wife, mom, grandma and home manager, she would be called her husband’s “Associate Head Coach In Charge of Real Life.”

“His wife has got to feel involved,” Mrs. Bowden says. “Women and men see relationships different. A woman depends on her husband for emotional support and if a man is thoughtful enough to realize that they’re in this together, he’ll see that. A wife doesn’t need to go out and coach on the field but she needs to feel a part of what her man is doing. A happy wife feels as if her husband treasures her. I’ve always thought of Bobby and I as a team. We’ve always done things together.”

Mrs. Bowden has entertained recruits and their families, boosters and university administrators. She’s also looked after the wives and families of the other coaches on the staff, organizing annual cruises for the coaches and their wives and weekly dinners to get coaches and their families together during the season.

It’s also a matter of making sacrifices. Bowden and his son Tommy, the head coach at Clemson, have always tried to make time for church with their families on Sunday morning, one of the busiest days of the week for a college coach. Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops allows his coaches to arrive at the office a little later during the week so they can take their children to school and he’s always encouraged his coaches to leave early enough to spend evenings with their families.

Mrs. Bowden is the first to admit that a happy coaching marriage also depends on the wife’s attitude and expectations. She has seen too many coach’s wives push their husbands into jobs they didn’t really want or weren’t ready for because of their own pride or financial demands.

“For the men to be happy in their jobs and to work well they’ve got to have a satisfied wife who isn’t unhappy with the situation,” Mrs. Bowden says. “Women have to be careful not to push their husbands too hard and make them feel like they’re inadequate because they’re not winning or they don’t have a head coaching job. The husbands want to know that the wives are proud of them.”

That means she must learn to be independent to some degree.

“A coach’s wife shouldn’t have to be dependent on him for her happiness. I’m not dependent on Bobby in that way,” Mrs. Bowden says. “I spoke to some young mother’s recently and they asked me ‘what did you do when you were younger?’ I told them ‘get a life of your own.’”

For single coaches who hope to marry someday, this is a good time to evaluate what you want out of life. If you’re dating and your prospective wife has reservations about the business, you might want to consider changing professions or thinking twice about marrying her. Not everyone can be a coach’s wife, just as not everyone can be the wife or a doctor or a minister.

For the married coaches reading this, here’s your challenge: take this home and have your wife read it. Put the kids to bed and talk about it. Even better, find a sitter and go away for a few hours on a weekend. Define your relationship and your goals. Put her first for awhile. Make her your partner.

It will make you a better coach, husband and father. After all, it worked for Bobby Bowden.


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