The inside scoop on what life as a sports spouse is like.
“When I grow up I’m hiring someone to do this,” my then ten-year old son said. He threw his gloves on the ground and wiped the sweat from his brow, his fingernails black with dirt.
“Me too!” My seven-year old daughter knelt beside me under the shade of our backyard oak tree. Her cheeks were red with perspiration. “I’ll give you all the money in my bank account if I can go inside and watch Sponge Bob now.”
“Your $53 won’t get us too far,” I said. “Plus, that’s not the point. Dad wants us to work together to get the yard in tip-top shape.”
The three of us stared at the mountain of black mulch piled at the end of our driveway.
“Nobody else has to do this,” the kids whined in unison.
Oh, how I secretly agreed with them!
“Let’s go,” my husband said as he rounded the corner. “With a little teamwork we’ll be done in no time.”
We popped up. My son pushed the wheelbarrow to the mulch pile and we filled it.
“Steady now,” my husband said as my son teetered to one side almost tipping the wheelbarrow. “Square up.” His was voice clipped. “My God! Just mulch with your core!”
I was sure the neighbors were peeking through their curtains to determine the source of the commotion.
Athletes have a certain do or die mentality that the rest of us don’t possess—especially professional athletes. My husband is a former professional soccer player. He was a child prodigy, suiting up for the US Youth National Team in high school and college and then turning pro at twenty-one and playing and making a living for thirteen years until his retirement.
He looks at the world through very different glasses.
Case in point: the belief that his two elementary school kids and his wife can spread eight yards of mulch in a single morning through sheer will, a little rah, rah, and teamwork is slightly delusional.
My husband is of the winning is everything school. He’s definitely not soft. Facebook confirmed this for him when he took their Toughness Test. You guessed right—he’s ninety-nine perfect tough. Even if it’s a fight against the front yard. We can do it. Mulch with your core!
He doesn’t understand losing. He said the other day he’d never been on team that had a losing season. And he’s of the super-human breed that doesn’t pull muscles, get dehydrated, or even thirsty. Let alone need or want a break while mulching.
I can’t tell you how many little spats we’ve had about this. The kids need water bottles. Yes, he did really sprain his foot. I’m making him sound like a dictator, which he’s not. He’s convinced that the rest of us are a little delicate.
Me, on the other hand, I believe it’s okay to lose sometimes. Better even. Life is not always black or white. The old adage is true: It’s not if you win or lose, but how you play the game. Right?
I think the universe might agree with me.
And my husband has golf to thank for this life lesson.
Oh, how the man loves to golf. He’s a decent player with a ten handicap.
He has always golfed for fun with his friends, but he recently had a hankering for a more intense level of competition. So he entered the local County Amateur Tournament. This event would give him a chance to play with the best golfers in our town.
Of course, I assumed he’d win the whole thing with his professional athlete experience and his win-at-all-costs attitude. Maybe he’d even go pro. This golfing thing could turn into a part-time job. Deep down, I was sure he’d be on the PGA Tour soon if he put his mind to it.
He was excited for the tournament. And like the PGA Tour, the golfers would play two rounds, one Friday and one Saturday. The top thirty players would advance to play on Sunday.
Friday didn’t go so great.
And Saturday went a little worse.
Sunday he stayed home.
Monday the newspaper printed the tournament results.
At first the kids chided him, “ Didn’t you golf with your core?”
My husband was slightly stunned by his poor showing, but he recovered quickly and signed up for the next tournament.
“There’s only one way to go,” I told him. “You’ll do much better this time around.”
Sunday—he was home again.
But he showed some improvement, placing fourth to last this time.
The whole losing thing is a little unbelievable to us all. Still my husband figured he would redeem himself in the final tournament of the year—at the very minimum his goal was to make the cut and get to play on Sunday.
But our son is now sixteen and his soccer schedule just came out. There’s a chance my husband would miss part of our son’s game if he played in the event. And to my husband, the only thing more important than winning is being a good dad.
That’s what it’s really like being married to a professional athlete: winning is important, losing is hard, but loving is paramount—that’s how he’s playing the game.
There’s always next season. Golf season, that is. Our son only has two more years on the soccer field. My husband figures he has the rest of his life to try to make the Sunday cut.
Maybe he just needs to engage his core a little more.
Tough or soft.
A little teamwork and we’ll get through this thing called life.
And spread the mulch.
Photo: Flickr/Barbara Eckstein