Most people attribute a coach’s success on the field with such things as the amount of time they put in and the talent of their players. However, the honest truth is that it comes not only from the players and the coaches, but also from the people behind the scenes. The ones who are making life easier for us, who take the brunt of the work at home, who take the brunt of the work when we are making a coaching move, and who support us through thick and thin. Yes, I am talking about our wives. Coaching Wives are a rare breed of woman. They can juggle the house, the kids, their jobs, the long hours without their spouses, and still have enough energy to lift us up when needed. They have to listen to criticism, knowing it isn’t true. They share not only in the joys, but in the defeats. They are our most staunch advocates. So what does our response need to be concerning our wives? How can we make their lives easier, just as we know that they make ours easier?
Multi-tasking, nurturing, and all of the relational skills seem to come more natural to women. Does that mean we get to rest on that? Not if we want our marriages to work. Not if we want them to continue to want to stand beside us. Not if we value their worth.
I want to challenge us as coaches to learn how to work as a couple; to help our marriages not only survive football season, but to thrive. I want to challenge us as coaches to show our athletes not only how to perform on the field, but how to perform off of it at home. To show them what a good marriage looks like. To show them that a good marriage takes work on both sides. To show them what to look for in a wife and how to be the best husbands that they can be.
We all know that the coaching profession can be hard on marriages, but it doesn’t have to be. As coaches, we just need to use our unique skill sets, such as our ability to research and prepare. Learning about your wife and what makes her unique will give your marriage the strength it needs to make it through the good times and the hard times, the winning seasons and the losing ones.
My playbook for life is the Holy Bible, but I have also found a great book which provides good practical applications for marriage. It is called “The Five Love Languages” by Gary Chapman. One of the best takeaways from the book is that we learn not only how we like to be shown love, but also how our wives like to be shown.
In most cases, married couples do not share the same love language. This means that we are going to struggle fundamentally. This is because we are showing the other person love by how we want it to be shown. Our spouses aren’t taking what we are giving as love if that isn’t their love language. They are wondering why you aren’t showing them that you love them, when in fact you are, but you are showing it to them in the wrong way.
My advice for every coaching couple is for you both to read the book and take the quiz to determine each of your love languages. I will guarantee that you will struggle at first, trying to do things that may not be natural for you, as it is easier to show love in the form in which you want it shown to you. It sometimes goes against every instinct we have. However, I can also guarantee you that if you put forth the effort to show your wives love the way that they want it shown, they will put forth the effort to show you love the way you would like it shown. I believe it is important for us to lead the way, as we are not usually as natural in this area. Don’t rest on your wives’ relational skills. After reading the book and doing the quiz, it is important for you both to sit down and write down your love languages and how you like those shown. Be specific. The more you learn and practice, the more natural it will become. I am not saying to prepare for your wife like you would an opponent, but in reality, there are some skills that will transfer. We, as coaches, would never go into a game or a season without preparation. Why would we not prepare even more for the seasons of our lives and our marriages?
With the help of my wife, I would like to share some of the ways you might be able to use your love languages to become closer and to strengthen that bond that, if we aren’t careful, sometimes weakens during certain times of the year. We are going to focus on how we can learn our wives’ love languages and how to put those into practice. Our wives are always focused on us and our families, so this is something we need to do for them. However, I encourage all of you to learn your love languages and to work out a plan with your wives for how they can help you as well. It is important to note that some people have two love languages that score equally as high, so either of you may have two. I personally think is important to take the quiz and not to just guess your language. Most people find out something new about themselves.
The first love language I am going to focus on is the love language of “service”. I am beginning with this one because this is my wife’s love language and I am therefore more tuned into this. My wife loves to serve. She volunteers at schools and soup kitchens, plans events for the coaches’ wives, etc. She makes my lunches when I want them, she plans our trips, she serves our girls as well as me. That is her love language, so she naturally serves others by using her language. As coaches, we are gone a lot, so it makes it harder to serve. And, as you will see, it will make all of the love languages more difficult. Therefore, we have to really think hard. How can I serve her? First of all, ask her. Second, search your own mind for ways in which she may not have thought. Serving my wife for me involves taking care of chores whenever I see a need, whether it is dishes, laundry, paying bills, etc. I also try to get creative and plan for different ways to serve. I would fill her car up with gas before I would leave for recruiting. It was usually the cold months of the year, and I thought about her having to take the kids in their car seats and her having to get out in the cold to fill the car up. It wasn’t as if she didn’t already get in and out of her car hundreds of times. This just eliminated one time per week. My wife said the best Valentine’s present she ever received from me was when I wrote down the things I knew she had on her to-do list, but hadn’t been able to get to, as well as taking care of the mundane chores she did daily. I ran to Target and got watch batteries put in her two watches, dropped off a couple of items to be repaired, did the laundry and the dishes, and read to our girls and put them to bed while she relaxed.
For those of you whose wives have the love language of “touch”, this can be tricky. Touch to men isn’t always the same as touch to women. What might mean love to your wife is that you walk through the crowd after a game and give her the first and longest hug. When you are on a date, reach over and hold her hand. When you are at home, walk up behind her at the table and give her a shoulder massage. Whether you are in front of your kids, your players, your friends, or just strangers in public, don’t be afraid to take her hand or put your hand in the small of her back or around her shoulders to show her that you are there and that you love her. She wants reassurance, and the way she is reassured is through your touch. Make sure that you are touching her in the way she wants to be touched as this can work against what you are trying to accomplish if you are focusing more on the way you think she wants to be touched. This can bring more tension than love if you aren’t listening. This goes for all of the love languages. Don’t assume what you are thinking is the same thing she is thinking.
Words of Affirmation
For those of you whose wives have the language of “words of affirmation”, you might have the easiest one for us as coaches. If you write things down, follow through and build habits of affirming her, you can make this work even on our schedules! This is simply knowing that words have more of an effect on her than those with other love languages. It also means that negative words are taken as more hurtful as well, so make sure you look at both sides of the words you use. Think before you speak, as you can either build a great bond or you can produce a great chasm between you. The reason this love language can sometimes be easier is that words can be used from anywhere. You can take one minute to write that you love her, you appreciate her, or to have a blessed day on a sticky note and post it where she will see it many times per day.
Happy Birthday to my beautiful wife, who is the love of my life, and whom represents God daily!
— Turner Gill (@LibertyTGill) May 19, 2016
You can write words of affirmation on a card when you leave for recruiting. You can take a minute or two in order to call during the day to see how she is doing, to tell her that you appreciate her love, and that you appreciate how she is showing you love. The more you verbalize the things you appreciate, the more likely she will keep them up. Words can heal or words can hurt, so choose wisely. Watch for her reaction when you tell her things as she is the best gauge for showing you whether you are saying the right thing or not.
For those of you whose wives have the language of “quality time”, I am sorry man. I am just kidding, but in reality, how much time do we really have to give? This love language may require the most thought, as you will have to make the little time you have to give count. Bring her into the discussion. Can you invite her to lunch and have her pick up her favorite food? Can you give her 20-30 minutes of your lunch hour to focus on her? Can you meet her at a restaurant close by and call ahead to have the food ready?
I guarantee that taking that break not only helps her, but it will make you more productive in the afternoon as she will energize you with her smile. Date night is important for all of us, but especially for those with the language of “quality time”. Pick a day, get a sitter, and spend the night looking at her over dinner and discussing whatever topic each of you desires. My wife actually likes it when she learns about the players or coaches and football. Some wives do not want to spend date night talking football. So learn what she likes to discuss and give her your undivided attention. And yes, that means turning your phone off. Bonus points for you if you call ahead and get the sitter and make the dinner reservation or have the movie tickets purchased.
For those of you whose wives have the love language of “gifts”, you too may be able to handle this fairly easily within our lifestyles. This language is last on my wife’s list, so me bringing her flowers doesn’t mean anything. I learned this early on in our marriage. My wife finally just told me to save the money I spent on flowers as it really wasn’t her thing. But for those of you whose wives love to see a token of your love, she might love it if you stopped and picked up flowers, or had them sent to her work or your home. Make sure this is the type of gift she likes before you do this. I remember a pastor saying once that his wife just melted if he walked in the door and handed her a fern! Her language was probably gifts. The types of gifts your wife likes could be the starting point for your discussion. Would she like flowers, which would be bright and cheer her up without her having to take care of them for a long time? Or would she like a plant where she can see it for years and be reminded of your love every time she walks by it? For some wives, they may like a piece of clothing, something for your house, some needed practical object, or chocolate. Again, a certain gift for one person may not be the best gift for another. What one wife may see as a practical gift that she appreciates as she sees it as you wanting to make her life easier, may seem impersonal to another woman. For those of you who have a hard time picking out something, ask your wife to write down stores, websites, or actual items that she desires and explain why – that you love her and want to show her in the way she likes, but that you struggle in that area. She may be more than happy to give you a website with an item already in the cart ready to be purchased, or even to pick something up when she comes across it and call to see if you want to give it to her for her birthday. Make sure she places it where you can wrap it though. She can’t do all the work! For those of you whose wives may have “gifts” and “quality time”, you can give her a gift card to a favorite store along with a card that says you will plan a date with her to go pick something out. We, as coaches, can get creative with our play calling, our recruiting strategies, and all things football, so it is important for us to transfer that creativity to the most important area of our lives, our families.
The Coaching Ministry
One of the best things I believe that can connect you as a coaching couple is to have some shared activities and goals. One of the things my wife and I share is our foundation, where we discuss who will be supporting and why. This is also something that will prepare us for our married life after football. We have taken a mission trip, and we know many who enjoy missions or FCA family camps during the summer. Another area where coaching couples can find common interests is in the team itself. If your wife has the gift of hospitality (service or quality time), she may enjoy having the players over. If she would rather send treats for the players with you to the office (gifts or service) instead of having the players over, this is something that you need to discuss. Not all women have the same talents or gifts, just as we don’t as men. Let her use her strengths to support you and the team and try not to put her into a role in which she isn’t comfortable. Also, make sure there isn’t room for comparison. Nobody wants to hear about how another coach or coach’s wife is great at something that either one of you is not as strong at in that area.
You will notice your wife’s love language coming out in the way she loves your players. Some wives may run up and hug the players (touch) after a loss or a win, while others may offer a note or a word of encouragement (words of affirmation) to a player who is going through something. Whatever way your wife and you de
cide to minister to the athletes, it produces a common goal, a strong bond, and it produces a great example for your kids. We all know how quickly our kids attach to the players. What a legacy of giving you are providing for your kids when they see you minister to the needs of others as well as to their needs. Make sure you discuss with your kids why you are having the players over and how important it is to give to others. It will help them learn how to minister to others and see how giving to others ultimately comes back to bring joy to the giver. It is important for your children to know that they are first in your life, however. It is sometimes hard for them to accept that you are spending more time at work or with the players than you are spending with them. The way my wife has handled this is to talk me up when I am not around. “Isn’t it great that your dad has been given a ministry from God that allows him to help others?” “Isn’t it great that we get to be a part of that?” Your kids won’t resent something that they are always brought in to be a part of. Try not to brag on the players, but rather, always explain the athlete’s success in terms of God, their hard work, or how they are a part of something bigger than themselves. Remember to learn the love languages of your kids as well. There is a separate book for that, but you can just apply what you have already learned.
My hope for all of the coaches who are reading this is that you will have strong marriages, strong families, strong coaching ministries and strong teams. I firmly believe that, after our relationships with God, our marriages and families have the most impact on our lives and our professions. I urge you to use these summer months to prepare for the football season ahead by learning the love languages of each of your family members, as well as your own. A little preparation will take the pressure off during the season so you don’t feel as you are constantly swimming upstream.
If your wife has the love language of service, mark your calendar for ways you will serve her. Make a list of the ways she wants to be served and refer back to it when you need to. Some suggestions are filling up her car, bringing home a meal or putting the kids to bed. You may be tired also, but she needs the break, and you will end up getting quality time with your kids and will end up not only ministering to your wife, but your kids. You will actually end up getting the most out of it.
If you wife has the language of touch, start establishing habits during the summer when you have time to think about it. If you didn’t see your parents hug when you were growing up, learn how to hug and kiss your wife when you walk in the door. Practice ways to make her feel loved. If you establish these habits during the summer, you will be more likely to continue during the season.
If your wife has the love language of words of affirmation, go buy a pack of sticky notes and a bunch of cards during the summer. When the season hits, you will just have to pull them out and find the one that is appropriate for that particular time. Mark your fall calendar with time slots to call your wife. It will eventually become a habit, but it may not come naturally to you if you haven’t always done it.
If your wife has the language of quality time, mark off your calendar for date nights in the fall. This is a must for all of us as well. Make a list of phone numbers for sitters, restaurants, etc…and keep it in your desk drawer or on your phone. That way, some of the planning will be done ahead of time. Listen for movies or activities that your wife mentions. Know the locations for redbox between the office and home. You can even reserve movies online and just have to pick them up.
If your wife has the love language of gifts, make a list of the things you will get her during the season. After you have discussed the kinds of things she would like to get, write down the number to florists, grocery stores, or other places she enjoys. That way you can just make a call and have flowers delivered or ready to be picked up. Write down items you hear her talk about during the year, as well as her favorites, such as a favorite food or candy. Pre-buy some gift cards for her to get some of her favorite things. These could be to a salon, a bookstore, her favorite clothing store or a coffee shop.
Since taking over Liberty University’s football program, head coach Turner Gill has elevated Liberty’s championship tradition to the next level – Liberty officially becomes an FBS Independent in 2018. Gill has guided the Flames to four Big South titles during his first five seasons on Liberty Mountain (2012-14 and 2016). The successful five-year run was spotlighted when he led Liberty into uncharted waters in 2014, leading the program to its first-ever trip to the NCAA FCS Playoffs. In his last 10 seasons as head coach at three different programs, Gill has led his teams to a first-place conference finish at year’s end six times (2007, 2008, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2016).
Gill has proven he has a keen eye for young talented players, helping them develop during their college years and preparing them to play at the professional level.
Gill came to Liberty after serving two years as head coach of the Kansas Jayhawks. Gill received his first head coaching position in 2006, when he took over a struggling Buffalo Bulls program. Gill’s longest coaching tenure has been at his alma mater, where he served as an assistant coach from 1992 to 2004. He served as the Cornhuskers’ quarterbacks coach from 1992 to 2003 and wide receivers coach during his final year with the program. During his decade-plus coaching stint in Lincoln, Neb., Gill was part of a coaching staff that guided Nebraska to 13 straight bowl appearances and three national championships (1994, 1995 and 1997).
Gill was a gifted athlete who also played collegiate baseball for one season at Nebraska and earned All-Big Eight honors at shortstop. Out of high school, Gill was a second round draft pick in the 1980 MLB Draft by the Chicago White Sox as a shortstop. Following his collegiate career, Gill played two seasons in the Canadian Football League with Montreal (1984-85) and three years as a baseball player in the Cleveland Indians and Detroit Tigers minor league systems (1986-88).
Gill is an active member of the collegiate football community at the national level. He is in his second term as an American Football Coaches Association Board of Trustees member (2009-11 and 2014-present). Gill completed his bachelor’s degree in behavior analysis at North Texas in 1990. The Fort Worth, Texas, native and his wife, Gayle, have two daughters.